Romans 9:6

Romans 9:6-13 with Romans 9:24-32
The natural question suggests itself to the mind, on thinking of the rejection of the Jewish people - What, then, becomes of the promises of God? Has the Word of God, then, become of no effect? The apostle answers this question in the negative (ver. 6), and proceeds to give his reasons.


1. It was a promise of spiritual blessing. "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

2. It was a promise made on spiritual conditions. It was not a promise made to Abraham's children according to the flesh, for then Ishmael and his children would have been partakers of it. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (vers. 7, 8). Isaac was Abraham's son, not in the ordinary course of nature, but by reason of the special promise of God, and Abraham's faith in it. Many think they have a claim on God's promises who forget that every promise has a condition attached to it, and who fail to fulfil that condition.

II. ABRAHAM'S TRUE CHILDREN ARE THOSE WHO EXHIBIT ABRAHAM'S FAITH. "For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children" (vers. 6, 7); "The Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith" (ver. 30). The same thought is brought out in Romans 4:9-17. Abraham's righteousness was the righteousness of faith. He had this faith when he was yet uncircumcised, "that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (Romans 4:11). Hence the Gentiles who exhibit Abraham's faith are heirs of the same promise and partakers of the same righteousness. There is no violation of the Divine promise in rejecting those who are Abraham's seed according to the flesh, but who do not exhibit Abraham's faith, and in including those who are Abraham's true spiritual children, because they exhibit Abraham's faith, though they are not his seed according to the flesh. God looketh on the heart. "In every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." External forms and outward privileges will not save us unless we have the change of heart which is required of all who would enter into the kingdom of God. "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."

III. GENTILES AS WELL AS JEWS WERE INCLUDED IN THE PROMISE. The apostle not only argues by inference, but also from God's specific statements. "As he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved" (ver. 25). The Jews were too much inclined to limit the Divine promises to themselves only, though there were many clear indications in the Divine Word that, while they were God's chosen people, other nations also were to be partakers of the blessing conveyed through them. We may so pride ourselves upon our privileges, while we neglect our duties, that at last even the privileges themselves shall be taken away. - C.H.I.

Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect.
The apostle's language is abrupt and broken, and fitly represents his feelings. He had felt his spirit drawn onward and upward as he proceeded with his enumeration of the high prerogatives of his countrymen, till at length he found himself climbing the ladder which Jacob saw, add which leads directly to "glory, honour, and immortality." He was, as it were, "caught up" in a rapture, and carried "off and away." Ere he was let down again, he had exclaimed, with fulness of heart, "Amen." But, unable for the present to proceed farther in that sublime rapture, he as it were recalls himself, and returns to the melancholy fact which is bewailed in vers. 2 and 3. The fact, however, as a fact is not expressly stated. The statement is semi-smothered under the intensity of the writer's feelings. Yet the enumeration of theocratic prerogatives finds a place in the writer's record just because there was oppressively present to his mind and heart the fact that his countrymen in general had, through their rejection of Jesus the Messiah, ousted themselves from the privileges of "the kingdom of heaven." They were refusing to be "Israelites indeed," and were virtually passing on themselves sentence of spiritual expatriation. Confronting that fact, he says, is a spirit of recoil.

I. THE CASE IS NOT SUCH AS THAT THE WORD OF GOD HAS FALLEN OUT OF ITS DUE FULFILMENT. The melancholy fact referred to might and would occasion much embarrassment to multitudes of men, but it would and could not embarrass the Divine Moral Governor, nor frustrate His promises even in relation to Israel. Jewish disbelief and self-deposition, melancholy as they were, were yet within the sphere of the full overrulement of God.

1. The apostle specifies the Word of God, i.e., the Word spoken by God through His prophets to Israel, and in substance preserved in "the volume of the book." On the one side it was simply predictive, on the other it was distinctly promissory; but in both respects a distinguished and distinguishing share of blessing was held out to the "peculiar people."

2. The Word of God has not failed of fulfilment, literally, has not fallen out. The idea is transfigured from a heavenly occurrence, as when from the back of some burden. bearer an article falls and is lost.

II. FOR NOT ALL WHO ARE OF ISRAEL ARE ISRAEL The apostle lays down a far-reaching principle. God had an ideal in view when He made choice of Israel to be His peculiar people. He had grand aims for future ages — aims that are yet to be realised in all peoples (Genesis 12:3, etc.). The selected people could not all at once grasp the grand idea. It was not to be wondered at. Neither would God be exacting. Still, His idea must not be pushed aside or reversed, like an inverted pyramid; still less must it be trampled under foot. For God was not shut up to Israel. If needful, He could find in the evolution of the ages an Israel beyond Israel, or an Israel within Israel. As regards the old Israel, if it should persist in misunderstanding its position and mission, fancying itself to be the indispensable centre of the whole human circle, it could be told, in that language of events which makes epochs in history, that its candlestick was removable, and would be removed for a lamp that would actually give light. There were Israelites and Israelites. There were those in full possession of the name, but entirely without the inward ideal that gave it significance, and there could be those without the name, but with the inward ideal, though yet only struggling like a star through the mists of ignorance and imperfection (Romans 2:29). In this verse the two kinds of Israel are brought into juxtaposition. Not all who are the progeny of the patriarch Israel are truly and ideally the Israel "to whom pertaineth the adoption." God, therefore, will not break His promise, though He refuse to fulfil it to those who have forfeited, by their unbelief, all right and title to an illustrious position and name. He is free to oust those who have persistently abused their high prerogative, and to introduce in their room a people who would seek to rise to the level of their high calling.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

God is the first cause of all things — sin excepted. All things were created by Him and for Him; but that which is effect to God, is often cause in other relations and connections. You Christians are God's workmanship, but at the same time you are causes. Oh, do not underrate your influence as Christians. You can scarcely rise to a correct estimate of it, so immense is it. Well, we say that the gospel, so far as its authorship is concerned, is an effect; but so far as its power in the world is concerned, it is a cause, and a glorious cause.

1. We may expect it to be a mighty cause if we look at its nature. "The Word of the truth of the gospel" is a direct revelation from God of a wonderful provision which He has made by His Son, and through the Holy Ghost for the salvation of men. It is like the planting of a new sun of twofold power in our firmament.

2. We may expect the gospel to be a mighty cause if we look at the commission issued respecting the preaching of it: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." The preachers are mocked, cruelly mocked, by this commission, and the world is cruelly mocked by the preaching, if it be intended that the word of God's grace should take none effect.

3. We may expect the gospel to be a mighty cause if we connect with the promise of our Saviour's presence with the preachers, the extraordinary ministry of the Holy Ghost. Why is the Holy Ghost sent to reprove the word of sin? And why did the Son of God promise to be with the first preachers always, if this word is to be of none effect?

4. We may expect the gospel to be a powerful cause if we consider the representations which are given concerning it. It is said to be glorious and everlasting, and the power of God unto salvation. It is called incorruptible seed, and the sword of the Spirit.

5. And we may expect the gospel to continue to be a powerful cause if we notice its first effects as recorded in our New Testament, and its subsequent effects as chronicled in uninspired writings; or if we look at all which the gospel is doing now, and remember that the nature of the gospel is such that the application of it does not exhaust it, and that time does not impair it. We would direct every Christian to his own condition as a saved man, and upon this ground would plead with you never to think, or feel, or speak, or act as though the Word of God had taken none effect. One soul saved is a marvellous effect — an effect in some respects more wonderful than even creation itself. Now trace the effect of the word of the truth of the gospel upon a man's mind. What is it like? It is like opening eyes which had always been blind. The effect of the word of the truth of the gospel is like unstopping deaf ears. The man hears that which he had never heard before. He hears God speaking to him. The effect of the Word of God upon him who believes it is to loose the dumb tongue. The man has spoken before, but never to God, or, if before to God, then as Cain spake to Him, and not as a child speaks to a father, that is, to a good father. The man now confesses his sin to God, as he feels the burden of his sin to be unbearable. The effect of the word of the truth of the gospel upon a man — still keeping to this illustration — is to strengthen the arms, so that work and conflict which appeared impossible are now undertaken as an easy task. The word of the truth of the gospel cleanses the hands — yes, the hands of the murderer from blood, and the hands of the thief from dishonesty, and the hands of the slothful from indolence, and the hands of the covetous from the rust and the canker of hoarded gold and silver. The Word of God effects that which is like restoring sensation and motion to withered and exhausted nerves. It quickens and arouses all the sensibilities and powers of soul and spirit — calling into life and activity godly love and godly hope, and godly joy, and all the moral and religious sensibilities and powers of soul and spirit — so that he who was as dead is now alive again, and God speaks to him as alive again. The Word of God — and perhaps we should have remarked this first — also changes the heart. Oh, brethren, do not think of the Word of God as though it had none effect; or if you be discouraged, just open your eyes, and see whether the ground of discouragement is not often to be found in the simple fact, that when Christians present the gospel to their fellow men they do not present it as God presents it.

(S. Martin.)


1. The phrase —(1) Implies the eternal purpose of God to save them that believe;(2) proceeds from free grace;(3) is determined by the reception or non-reception of the truth, which is an act of free-will.

2. The proof supplied by the history of the elect people.(1) By the difference in the moral condition of the Israelites (ver. 6; chap. Romans 2:28, 29).(2) By the different relations in which the immediate descendants of Abraham stood to God (ver. 7, 8; cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39). The same difference obtains in the Christian Church.


1. The whole work of grace is matter of promise, and affords hope of a better life.

2. This is shown by the examples quoted (vers. 9, 13).

3. Hence it follows that we can only be partakers of the promise by a believing reception of it.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

They had been so highly privileged, and were yet cast out. "Oh, what a fall was there!" But God's promise had not come to naught, for as the history of their ancestry showed, the purposed working out of God's plans for the salvation of the world — for which alone Israel had been chosen — was not committed rigidly to all Israel, but only to such of them as God should choose. And in this matter of choosing God was perfectly free. Note —

I. GOD'S PURPOSE FOR THE WORLD. A Creator's love must embrace His whole creation; a Father's, all His children. God is the Father of mankind, even though all have fallen from Him. Any purpose of salvation must therefore comprehend all men in its wide scope, and only the wilfulness of man can prevent the accomplishment of its purpose. God has purposed the redemption of the world in Christ (Ephesians 3:11), but by reason of man's debasement the accomplishment of the purpose must needs be gradual. One great central work shall be wrought — God's work through Christ; but up towards this the preparatory work must lead, and away from this the fulfilment must conduct. An education of the world; a great power of salvation; a world-wide application of the power.

II. AN ELECT PEOPLE. The election dealt with in these chapters, which has no reference to the election of individuals to eternal salvation, was the election of a people who should conduct the world toward Christ by way of preparation, and afterwards conduct Christ's power to the world by way of application. In the matter of preparation the exclusion of this people from others was needful first, because of the abounding corruptions of the world. Sometimes this is the only safety: "Come out and be separate!" But a scattering was needful afterwards. So the captivities, overruled by God; so the dispersion in later times. For the subsequent evangelisation there must be concentration first, that the new power of life might be fully realised; a scattering afterwards, that the new power might touch the uttermost ends of the earth (Acts 8:4).

III. THE FREEDOM OF THE ELECTION. In such work God's hands cannot be tied, and surely He may choose whom He will; and the history of the past abundantly illustrates the freedom with which God has worked. First, God chose Abraham. The Jews would not complain of the freedom of election here. Again, of Abraham's sons He chose the later-born, showing that the matter of priority of natural claims could not weigh with Him; and of Isaac's twin sons before their birth He chose the later-born, showing that nothing done by the elected one constituted a claim on His electing grace. Neither Ishmaelites nor Edomites were rejected of God from personal salvation, but as regarded taking a special part in the work of the world's salvation, they were reprobate. So, then, God had acted freely in the choice of Abraham, and in narrowing down the election among Abraham's seed. Was it to be wondered at that in the fulness of time He should act freely still, and elect only a remnant of the people to the work of evangelisation of the world, this work so soon to be entrusted also to Gentile workers themselves? The same principle still holds good. God elects us according to His sovereign will for work in His kingdom. Let us learn, as a first lesson, absolute submission — nay, the unquestioning fealty of love.

(T. F. Lockyer, B.A.)

I well remember a time when this truth was brought home to me by the ease of one to whom I was permitted to minister during the closing days of his life. He was one who had stood foremost among the thoughtful and wise of this world; but he did not feel the full power of the Word of Life. I felt considerable anxiety. I thought that much depended on the way in which, in these closing scenes of life, I presented to him the vital and saving truths of Christianity. If presented in any over-confident way by one whom, perhaps, he would have considered less cultivated than himself, I felt — and I remember the anxiety with which I felt it — all ministrations might have done harm. I humbly conferred with my own poor heart, and I thus reasoned with my anxiety; "Let me read from God's Word some more than usually appropriate portion in such a case. But let me read God's Word alone, and leave that Word to work in this heart. My words, I am confident, will be as nothing. I will read alone the Word of Life." The portion I chose was that contained in the last seven or eight chapters of St. John's Gospel. I read perhaps about twenty verses at a time — not more; and I added only the very simplest comments where comments seemed to be necessary; and I remember well — it is a memory ever pleasant with me and that often encourages me — how the words seemed to find their way into the sick man's heart; how I saw shadows on the brow passing slowly away; how often the common human eye could observe the mystery of God's Word finding its way to the heart. I remember once or twice humbly testing whether it was so by staying away almost purposely, and found, on my return, that not I, but the reading of the Word of Life, had been sadly missed. I read onward and onward, and I am confident — I am speaking now with carefully chosen words — that those words of life brought that soul very close to our saving Lord. The incident produced a very great effect upon me; and I never hear any one speak lightly of what is called "the mere reading of the Word of God" without having this as a proof that there is in this blessed Book alone, without word or comment, a power and a force that no human language can describe.

(Bp. Ellicott.)


1. They do not repent.

2. Do not believe.

3. Are not saved.


1. It takes effect on others.

2. Would in them, but for their unbelief.

3. Must ultimately take effect in their final condemnation.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. — Here is —

I. A SOLEMN FACT — not all Israel, etc. Some possess the name, the form, but deny the power.

II. THE REASON OF IT — not that the Word of God is without effect. Some realise its power, but others believe not, and to them the arm of the Lord is not revealed.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. ITS ORIGIN (ver. 6).

1. Not in the purpose of God, for His promise respects all (2 Peter 3:19).

2. But in the conduct of men, who hold fast the form, and deny the power.

II. ITS NATURE (ver. 7-13).

1. The external depends upon parentage, education, prejudice, etc.; the true upon the promise of God.

2. The external rests in works; the true in the grace of God.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called
1. Not in Ishmael, but in Isaac.

2. Not by a natural, but by a spiritual birth.

3. Not by the will of man, but by the purpose of God in Christ.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. The example of Abraham.

2. Its application — natural advantages avail nothing, but a new birth in Christ the true seed of promise.


1. The case of Esau and Jacob.

2. Election determined not by merit, but grace, and suspended on faith.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. EXEMPLIFIED. Not all the children of Abraham.

1. Ishmael the child of nature, Isaac the child of promise.

2. Ishmael rejected, Isaac appointed heir.


1. Those who are born of the flesh are not the children of God, but those who are born of the Spirit.

2. According to the promise made in Christ. These are the true heirs of salvation.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise
I. OF THE FLESH. Children by mere natural generation, viz. —

1. Ishmael and his descendants.

2. Abraham's sons by Keturah, and their posterity.

3. The natural descendants of Abraham in general. Unbelieving Jews were children of the flesh as truly as was Ishmael.

II. OF THE PROMISE. Born entirely in virtue of a promise, viz. —

1. Isaac.

2. Believers whether Jews or Gentiles (Romans 4:11, 16, 17; Galatians 3:29).

3. Isaac a type of believers —

(1)As born according to Divine promise.

(2)By supernatural power (Genesis 17:5; Isaiah 53:10-12; John 1:13; John 5:25; John 6:44, 45, 65).


1. Children in God's esteem, and by God's appointment.

2. Those to whom He will be a God as He was to Abraham (Genesis 17:7). Children of the flesh distinguished from the children of God (John 1:13).

(T. Robinson, D.D.)

Within the family circle of Abraham there were children who should never have been. They were not really wanted in the world. Their existence was attributable to the unrefined manners of the age. Hence they might be called "children of the flesh." The designation was sufficiently explicit, and could stand appropriate antithesis to that of "the children of promise," and thus the Messianic children of God. Such were Isaac and then Jacob, and their legitimate descendants. God promised these to Abraham, and they were at once children of the promise, and the Messianic children of God. To the exclusion of all other descendants they were reckoned for the Messianic offspring by God. He had sovereign right to choose, and He exercised His right. The phrase "children of God" is susceptible of varied applications. All men are His offspring (Acts 17:28), and thus His children. The pure, the benevolent, and the unrevengeful, these in particular are His children (Matthew 5:45). And if from among the lapsed any rise up and earnestly urge their way toward purity, etc., then all these are emphatically "the children' of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). Having received Christ they have "power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12). Jesus Himself is the Son of God in the highest sense But in the passage before us the designation is restricted to those who were His Messianic children. Viewed in unity, they are His national sons, His firstborn (Exodus 4:22). Viewed in individuality they are His theocratic sons and daughters.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

St. Paul as a Christian patriot was ready to sacrifice his everlasting fellowship with Christ if it could ensure the salvation of his fellow countrymen. But, alas! the fact of the rejection of Jesus and His gospel by many of the Jews must be accepted. And when the apostle turns to history, he finds that there has been no wholesale salvation of either the descendants of Abraham and Israel, but a certain proportion only became children of promise. How can these facts be dealt with under the Divine government? It is to this the apostle devotes himself in the present passage.


1. God did not elect to privilege either all the children of the patriarch, or even those whom we would incline to elect. Abraham had eight children (Genesis 25:2), yet only one became the "child of promise." Isaac had two, but only the younger became the child of promise. Moreover, when we consider Ishmael and Esau, we are inclined to consider them the more manly and noble. They may have become "sons of the desert," but there is something in them that commands our admiration. Of course we see in them purely natural endowments. They live lives of sense rather than of faith, and are what we call now worldly men. Their natures are as interesting as pure worldliness of spirit will allow.

2. Now let us suppose that God's electing love had laid hold on these well-made "noblemen of nature," and had passed by their feebler brothers, the mediative Isaac, the cowardly Jacob; would not an outcry have resulted against a God who professed to be a Father, and yet could favour the strong and pass by the weak? But, as Dr. Leonard W. Bacon says, "God does not cast out His crippled and deformed children to perish. He holds to a stricter and sterner responsibility the sons that are nobly endowed. He is not the gentleman's God, nor the Redeemer of persons of fine culture and instincts, but the Saviour of the lost. And by many a story as strange as this of Jacob and Esau He has shown to the generous and highminded that there is a possible way of ruin for them; and to those who know in their own sorrowful consciences, and by the scorn of others, that they are not of noble strain, that there is a way by which they may find salvation."

II. THE CHILDREN OF THE PROMISE HAVE BEEN LED TO PRIZE IT AND TO TRUST IN THE FAITHFUL PROMISER. Both Isaac and Jacob were children of the promise in this sense, that their mothers would never have borne them had not God sustained their hope of children by the promise of a seed. But Esau was included in this promise as well as Jacob. There was, however, another and better promise, about all the families of the earth being blessed through a particular seed. In other words, the promise of a Messiah was held before them as their highest hope. Now Ishmael and Esau despised this arrangement; they did not feel indebted to posterity, as many a worldly mind thinks still. But Isaac and Jacob got interested in the promised blessing, and were led to trust Him who uttered it. Their very weakness led them to lean on One mighty to save, and they were pardoned, accepted, and in due season sanctified. God's electing love thus moves along lines where there is the likelihood that poor, crippled, crushed souls will learn to trust God who is mighty to save. It is harder for a rich man, e.g., to trust God than for a poor man; hence God has "chosen the poor, rich in faith," etc. (James 2:5). It is harder to get able-bodied, healthy men to trust God than the sick and sorrowing; and hence we find that the Jobs and Asaphs are made, by God's grace, to show to the unbelieving world that they can serve God for nought, etc. (Job 1:9; Job 13:15; Psalm 73.). And so, as Dr. Bacon again says, "Be of good comfort. You shall be saved not only in spite of your faults and infirmities, but from them. Faith in God is the vital air of all true nobleness. In this air the stunted germs of human virtue unfold and blossom. Without faith their fairest growths tend to shrivel and decay. For lack of faith in God, the noble gifts of Esau are of no avail. He shuts himself out a willing stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope, without God in the world. He moves, a wandering star, in a track without a centre, on towards, blackness of darkness. By faith the low nature of that "worm Jacob" is by and by redeemed from the power of evil, and, transformed in character and name, becomes the prince that hath power with God."

III. GOD'S ELECTING LOVE AND REPROBATING HATE CANNOT BE CHARGED WITH INJUSTICE. In analysing God's love for the children of promise Paul traces their election to God's good pleasure (ver. 15). And if mercy be undeserved favour, then He may justly give it to whomsoever He pleaseth. On the other hand, those who are passed by, having no claim to better treatment, simply receive the reward of their deeds. And here it may be well to guard against a false view of God's hatred of Esau. It is not to be inferred that God hated Esau before he was born and had any opportunity of doing evil. When we consult the passage (Malachi 1:2) here quoted by Paul we find it refers to the judgment of Edom in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, 996 years later. Without being blessed like his brother, Esau received his home "in the fastness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven." His indifference had cost him his right of primogeniture, and he could no more receive it back (Genesis 25:32; Genesis 27:33-37; Hebrews 12:16, 17); yet the law prescribed "Thou shalt not have the Idumean in abomination, for he is thy brother," and God endured ten centuries of hardness of heart before He said "I have hated Esau." That is to say, God's reprobation of Esau is not to be confounded with His election of Jacob. The opposite of election is not reprobation, but non-election; and no human being has any evidence that he is not elected. The opposite of reprobation is approbation, and we are all reprobated by God so long as we do not accept Christ. Election rests on the good pleasure of God; reprobation on His holiness, which leads Him to antagonise what is unholy.

(R. M. Edgar, D.D.)

We are not to make election a ground for our faith, but our faith and calling a medium or argument to prove our election. Election, indeed, is first in the order of Divine acting — God chooseth before we believe — yet faith is first in our acting — we must believe before we can know we are elected; yea, by believing we know it. The husbandman knows it is spring by the sprouting of the grass, though he hath no astrology to know the position of the heavens: thou mayest know thou art elect, as surely by a work of grace in thee, as if thou hadst stood by God's elbow when He wrote thy name in the Book of Life.

(W. Gurnall.)

For this is the word of promise
1. Is unmerited and free.

2. Surpasses human thought.

3. Removes every difficulty.

4. Is suspended on faith.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

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