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Grace for All in the Sovereignty of God (Romans 9:1-18)

Romans 9:1–18 - 1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. What does today’s passage say? In today’s passage, Paul expresses his profound grief and constant sorrow over most of his fellow Israelites rejecting Christ as Messiah (vv. 1-5). He explains that despite this, God’s promises have not failed, as not all of Abraham’s physical descendants are actually children of the promise; it is those who have faith in God’s plan of redemption who are Abraham’s true, spiritual children (vv. 6-9). Paul illustrates this using God choosing Jacob over Esau to carry the special blessing; God’s purpose and call depends on His grace in granting mercy, not human desire or effort (vv. 10-13). Paul then addresses objections by affirming God’s absolute divine right as Creator to have mercy and compassion on some while allowing others in their unrepentant state to face condemnation (vv. 14-18). How can I apply Romans 9:1-18 to my life? Today, Paul wrestles with deep anguish over most of his fellow Jews rejecting Jesus as the promised Messiah. Though he affirms God’s sovereign plan of redemption, that does not diminish his acute burden for their salvation. Paul longs desperately for his unbelieving people, including strangers, to repent and receive redemption through Christ. His example reminds us that while we may not understand all of God’s mysterious workings, we know His heart yearns for all people to put faith in His Son and experience His mercy rather than wrath. Like Paul, we must urgently plead in prayer and action for lost souls to gain salvation before it is eternally too late. We also see Paul confront the arrogance of relying on ancestry, achievement or personal merit to find acceptance with God. Our identity and righteousness must be grounded solely in Christ’s atoning work, not our own faulty efforts. Let us we join Paul in interceding in prayer, action, and witness for the lost while praising God for the gracious gift of salvation offered to all. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Have a Burden for the Lost (vv. 1-5): Paul expresses sincere grief for his unbelieving fellow Israelites in these passages. His anguish reflects the response all believers should have for those who face eternal condemnation without Christ. Though we trust God's plans fully, that does not reduce our burden to plead for lost souls. Like Paul, understanding judgment's reality should compel us to urgently and actively share our faith with strangers, community members, colleagues, loved ones, and even enemies. We must devote ourselves to seizing every opportunity to communicate the gospel, while yearning and praying desperately for the repentance and salvation of all people without resignation towards anyone's fate. God draws believers to Himself out of gracious love for those experiencing spiritual death and blindness. So we must replicate that grace through our words and deeds. Our mandate includes pleading persistently with God for even hostile souls, trusting the transformative power of His Spirit, while tirelessly engaging personally to help remove any barriers obstructing lost people's path towards the Cross (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Colossians 4:5-6).

Food for thought: Is there someone specific who does not know Jesus for whom you need to urgently plead with God to open their eyes to grace before it is eternally too late? What sacrificial actions can you take this week to compellingly demonstrate Christ's love to lost people in your sphere of influence?

  1. Base Your Identity on Christ, Not Your Good Works (vv. 6-13): In these verses, Paul explains that God's favor and salvation come through faith rather than human effort or ancestry. This vital truth must shape our core identity and reliance for righteousness. Although God sovereignly chose Jacob's lineage to carry the Messiah, His redemptive plan has always been that anyone trusting in His promised salvation will gain acceptance. Jesus' finished atonement is the sole basis for being declared righteous, not personal merit or good works which always fall short of God's perfect standard. All human accomplishment is as insignificant as Esau's worldly birthright blessing compared to the infinitely greater inheritance we gain through rebirth by the Holy Spirit into God's family. So we must resist pride in achievements, resist comparing ourselves to others, and continually give thanks that despite former rebellion, God graciously grants salvation and spiritual blessings to all who place faith in His Son (Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5-7).

Food for thought: What areas of spiritual pride or self-reliance may you need to confess and renew reliance on Christ’s righteousness? How can you remind yourself this week that your true worth and salvation come not from human accomplishment but from Jesus’ grace?

  1. Recognize God's Absolute Right to Show Mercy (vv. 14-18): As the eternal, sovereign Creator, God has full divine authority to show compassion and redemption to some while allowing others to persist in rebellion with consequences. Though as finite humans we cannot fully comprehend His judgments, we must avoid the arrogance of questioning God’s justice. He extends salvation to all who trust Christ, not selecting some while barring others arbitrarily. The Psalmist exclaims “What is man that You take thought of him?” As vessels formed by the Master Potter, we are in no position to doubt His wisdom. Our response instead must be humility and awe that the Lord of the universe offers pardon freely to even the chief of sinners who believe. Yet persistence in hardening our hearts against His mercy necessitates experiencing His wrath. So rather than dispute God’s right to show mercy as He chooses, we must urgently plead with those still embracing sin’s deception to renounce rejection of truth before their hearts become irrevocably seared by pride (Psalm 103:8-14; Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 2:4-6; Hebrews 3:7-8).

Food for thought: Are there areas where you struggle recognizing God's higher ways compared to your limited perspective? How does grasping the depth of your innate sinfulness lead to greater awe at God’s mercy offered in Christ? Paul reveals how the doctrine of salvation by faith rather than works energized his missionary zeal. His burden did not lead to passive resignation about the lost but to Christlike commitment to remove barriers obstructing their path to the gospel. Though grieved by widespread Jewish unbelief, Paul continued tirelessly preaching the message of grace, trusting God’s power to save all who believe. Just as Paul’s vertical relationship with God overflowed into horizontal self-sacrifice for strangers’ salvation, we must plead for the lost, love like Christ, and witness like their lives depended on it. When our identity rests wholly on God’s work versus our own, we are truly set free to serve those still enslaved to sin’s deception across cultural divides and through adversity. May Paul’s example compel us to urgently intercede for the lost while finding our supreme worth in Christ alone. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would give me a genuine burden for lost souls and develop in my heart Your compassion to plead persistently for even hostile people to know the blessing of salvation before it is too late. Lead me to actively seize opportunities to share the Gospel. Help me fully rely on Christ’s finished work to provide my sole righteous standing before You rather than clinging to any sense of personal merit. Guard my heart against spiritual pride and keep my identity grounded in what Jesus accomplished so I am freed to love those still deceived by false paths to acceptance. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Romans 9:16 – “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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