Rebuttal of the nomist critique, 6:1-11:36

5. The vindication of grace, 9:1-11:36

i] Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 9:6b-29

a) The children of promise are the children of God


In this the first major part of his fifth rebuttal argument against the nomist critique that his gospel is flawed (given that most Jews have rejected it), Paul sets out to establish that "not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel", Cassirer. To this statement Paul argues that the purpose of God never included the salvation of every Israelite. "Salvation was never ethnic, by race, but always by grace throughout Israel's history", Dumbrell. It is the remnant according to grace that realizes Israel's hope. To establish his argument Paul examines the life of Ishmael and Esau and their descendants to make the point that "God never made bodily descent the title to a place in his family", Hunter, v7-10; divine prerogative stands over lineage, or personal righteousness, v11-13.


i] Context: See 9:1-6a.


ii] Background: See 1:8-15.


iii] Structure: This passage, serving to argue that it is the remnant according to grace that realizes Israel's hope, presents as follows:

Proposition: Not all Israel is part of God's true Israel, v6b.

Argument: The children of promise are the children of God, v7-29.

The evidence of salvation history, v7-13:

The example of Isaac, v7-9;

The example of Jacob, v10-13.


iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.


v] Interpretation:

See 9:1-6a.


In v7-10 Paul establishes the simple truth that it is actually the children of promise who are the rightful inheritors of the covenant promises. A simple examination of Israel's history supports this contention. Both Ishmael and Esau and their descendants, although properly descendants of Abraham, stand outside God's covenant people; they are not Abraham's children according to promise. It is important to note that Paul is not arguing for the salvation, or otherwise, of these patriarchs, on the basis of the determined will of God. God covenanted (made promises to) both Ishmael and Esau and their descendants, and their eternal standing with God will depend on their faith response to these promises. Paul is using a salvation-history argument concerning God's determined preservation of the Abrahamic covenant through a God-ordained line, which, of its very nature, never included all the natural descendants of Abraham. For a contra view see Schreiner p496/7.


In v11-13 we are confronted with the issue of divine election. This issue is one of constant debate and is usually resolved as follows:

a) God's election of individuals to his remnant people Israel. An election to salvation - that God's call was on the basis of predestination [single, or double], so Calvin, Hodge.., or implicitly so, cf. Schreiner, Luz. Some argue that God's call rests on his knowledge of a future faith-response (that God's call was on the basis of foreknowledge, so Chrysostom), although it should be noted that Paul is here making the point that God's "election/choice" is not in any way consequent on the actions of either Jacob or Esau;

b) The election of Israel itself. The "new perspective" position views God's election in the terms of Israel itself. "The children of Israel should recognize that their own selection as God's people was solely a matter of God's free choice, and that his purpose continues to unfold solely in terms of what God determines", Dunn;

c) The election of a remnant within Israel, the membership of which is by faith. Taking a salvation history approach, "it is election to privilege that is in mind, not eternal salvation", Morris; what Paul has in mind is "the sovereign freedom of God in assigning priority", Mounce. It is likely that God's sovereign grace, his determined covenant mercy, is realized in the establishment and maintenance of a Godly line, a remnant, in which, again in God's sovereign grace, participation is by faith. Paul is affirming that "lineage cannot guarantee election; nor does election presuppose righteousness; but God's election is, rather, a free act of mercy", Throckmorton, Jr.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 9:6b

The proposition to which Paul will argue in 9:6b-29; "you cannot count all Israelites as the true Israel of God", Phillips. Paul is saddened by the state of unbelief among his fellow-Jews. Yet, although all those who are Israelites are rightly the people of God, able to access the privileges of God's covenant agreement with Abraham, not all have accessed those privileges and therefore, not all are part of true Israel. Only a remnant has appropriated God's promised saving mercy, and this, like Abraham, by resting in faith on the faithfulness of God. So, the rejection of Christ by the majority of Jews is sad, but is not unexpected.

gar "for" - Explanatory rather than causal; "the truth of the matter being this", Cassirer.

oiJ "[not all] who" - [not all] the ones. The article servers as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase ex Israhl, "from Israel", into a substantive / noun; "the ones out of Israel."

ex (ek) + gen. "descended from [Israel]" - out of [Israel are Israel]. The preposition expressing source / origin. In the clause, v6b, the verb must be supplied, "are descended from", NIV, "sprung from", Knox, possibly "belongs to", Moffatt, "members of", Harris. The sense is "not all born Israelites belong to Israel", NJB, and certainly not "the people whom God has specifically chosen include more person's than simply the people of Israel", TH (ie. "Israel" = a "spiritual Israel" which includes Gentile Christians). God's dealings with Israel has always been with a "remnant" of Israel, a "true Israel", a "spiritual Israel", Moo. Abrahamic descent defines Israel, but "the salvation of every single Israelite was never the divine intention" since "the covenant promises of God .... always necessitated belief", Dumbrell. "Only some of the people of Israel are truly God's people", NCV.


The children of promise are the children of God, v7-13: i] Having stated, in v6b, that the covenant "never applied to the whole of physical Israel", Morris, Paul goes on to establish, in v7-9, the simple truth that it is actually the children of promise who are the rightful inheritors of the covenant promises. He gives the example of Isaac and Ishmael, cf. Genesis 21. Both are descendants of Abraham, but only Isaac, the child promised Abraham and Sarah by God, along with his descendants, "the children of promise", are identified ("reckoned") as Abraham's true children. Of course, God doesn't abandon Ishmael, but his sovereign purpose is worked out through Isaac, not Ishmael. Anyway, the point is, even way back with Abraham's own children, God's true covenant people were not identified on the basis of race, on the basis of genes; from the beginning, blood-lines do not serve to define the true Israel.

oud oJti "nor because" - neither because. It is possible that this construction mirrors the idiomatic ouc oi|on ...oJti; "It's not as if God's word has failed ..... nor is it as if all are the children of Abraham." The trouble is both statements are not parallel. So, it is likely that oJti is simply explanatory, establishing an appositional statement to "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel." "The truth of the matter is this. Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel; not all the descendants of Abraham are his children."

sperma (a atoV) "[his] descendants" - [they are] seed [of Abraham]. "Seed" here is used of Abraham's descendants by physical descent.

tekna (on) "children" - Are they Abraham's children, as NIV, or God's children, as TEV, "neither are all Abraham's descendants the children of God"? Paul is probably not making a distinction, at this point, between Abraham's actual children and his spiritual children, children of faith. Paul is referring to "Abraham's real children", Barclay, "Abraham's true children", REB, ie. those of Abraham's descendants who may rightly claim to be God's covenant people.

all (alla) "on the contrary" - but. Strong adversative; "In point of fact scripture says", Barclay.

en + dat. "it is through [Isaac]" - in [Isaac]. Instrumental, expressing means; "by means of Isaac."

soi dat. pro. "that your [offspring]" - [seed] to you. Dative of possession; "your offspring."

klhqhsetai (kalew) fut. pas. "will be reckoned" - will be called. The sense is either: i] meaning no more than "shall be" = "in Isaac you shall have your descendants", BAGD; ii] meaning "recognized as" = "it is thy descendants through Isaac that shall be called thy seed", Cranfield; iii] meaning "appointed [by God]" = "through Isaac shall God call individuals to participate in the benefits of the covenant", Moo, cf. Dunn. It is likely that Paul intends the word in its Old Testament sense here, namely, "named / identified", ie. option [ii], rather than the sense of "an effective call that creates what is desired", Schreiner, ie. option [iii]. "It is through the line of Isaac's descendents that your name will be traced", REB.


touto estin "in other words" - this is. Introducing an explanation of the quoted text.

tauta pro. "[it is not the natural children] / [ it is not the children by physical descent]" - not these [the children of the flesh]. This neuter pronoun is interesting, possibly indicating that the comparison being made is not just between Isaac and Esau, and their descendants, expounding the quoted text (Gen.21:12), but between "the true Israel and all Israel", Jewett. This is true of v6b where the comparison is between the covenant people of God = all Israel and the covenant people of God, who through faith, are covenant compliant = remnant Israel / the children of promise. In support of this reality Paul demonstrates that even when it comes to the natural descendants of Abraham, some qualify as the people of Israel and others don't. That is, Paul's argument in v7-13 is more tactical than theological. "That is, it is not those who are simply physically Abraham's children", Barclay.

thV sarkoV (x koV) gen. "natural [children] / [children] by physical descent" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive (possessive, so Moo), limiting "children".

tou qeou (oV) gen. "who are God's [children]" - [the children] of God. The genitive is adjectival, possessive (belong to God) / relational (in a relationship with God).

alla "but" - Strong adversative. Note the ou ..... alla counterpoint construction; "not ..... but ...."

thV epaggeliaV (a) gen. "[the children] of promise" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "the children who are the product of a promise", "the children of the covenant", but possibly possessive, "the children who belong to the promise", Harvey. God determined that the Abrahamic covenant applies to the child of promise, Isaac (the child "born as a result of God's promise to Abraham", Morris), and his seed (="children of promise"), rather than the child of human management, Ishmael, and his seed. "Who automatically inherit the promise", Phillips.

logizetai (logizomai) pres. pas. "who are regarded as" - are considered, reckoned, calculated (for a seed). God "regards" them as "Abraham's real descendents", Barclay. Paul likes this word and uses it freely in that it well describes the application of God's sovereign grace. "That are counted as the heirs", NJB.

eiV + acc. "as Abraham's offspring" - for [a seed]. Most translations treat this construction here as standing in for a predicate nominative; "counted as offspring", ESV.


gar "for" - for. Explanatory, rather than causal. Lenski produces a nice paraphrase; "I will give two illustrations (re Isaac and Jacob) in order to help you to understand promise, all these prerogatives of Israel which rest on the promises (v5) and this expression the children of the promise, which, alas, applies to so few of the Israelites."

epaggeliaV (a) gen. "the promise" - [this the word] of promise. The position is emphatic, with the genitive indicating that "promise" (anarthrous) serves as a predicate adjective stating a truth about the subject, "word", so Sanday and Headlam, contra Barrett - the verb must be supplied; "a word of promise is this word", Cranfield.

kata + acc. "at [the appointed time]" - according to [this time]. Here temporal, "at", as NIV. The phrase in the LXX takes the sense "at this time next year", but here best left in the air; "in due season", REB.

eleusomai (ercomai) fut. "I will return" - I will come. Predictive future. Referring to God's coming upon Sarah to miraculously render her fertile for the fulfillment of the divine promise.

th/ Sarra/ (a) dat. "Sarah [will have a son]" - [there will be] to Sarah [a son]. Dative of interest, advantage, "for Sarah", or possession, as NIV.


ii] Esau, a true descendent of Abraham, stands apart from Israel, v10-13. Paul now develops the issue of divine "election" in the choice of Isaac over Esau, an issue which will lead him to examine how this sits with the justice of God in v14ff, v10-13. The theological issue of divine election that Paul now touches on, further address the issue that not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. The reality is that God's "plan/purpose" is realized by divine "choice/election" and this is evidenced by a called out people (by "the one calling") within the seed of Abraham, a "true Israel" within "ethnic Israel" which is apart from race or virtue.

ou monon de "not only that" - and not only. A transitional phrase in the argument, so, a new paragraph, as NIV, or at least the next point; "And this is not all", TEV.

alla kai "but" - but and. Adversative + an adjunctive kai; "but also."

Rebekka "Rebecca's" - Rebecca. Predicate nominative, but possibly a nominative absolute; "take Rebecca for instance, her children had the same father ..."

ecousa (ecw) pres. part. "[children] had / [children] were conceived" - having [a marital bed, sexual intercourse, sperm]. The participle is possibly substantival, "Rebecca, the one having [children]", or adverbial, temporal, "when Rebecca became pregnant by our father Isaac", Moffatt. The idiomatic phrase koithn ecousa, "having a marital bed" = "conceiving".

ex (ek) + gen. "by" - from. Expressing source / origin.

enoV "one and the same father / at the same time" - one man. Moo argues that Paul is actually saying that Rebecca conceived twins from a single sexual act, a single delivery of sperm, so emphasizing the particularity of God's choice between Jacob and Esau, so TNIV. There was nothing between them, but God chose between them such that only one was a child of promise. "Also Rebecca, when she conceived children in one act of intercourse with Isaac", Moo.

Isaak gen. proper "[our father] Isaac / [our father] Isaac" - of Isaac [the father of us]. Standing in apposition the "the one man"; the genitive is ablative, expressing source / origin.


In the Gk. v11-12 is a single sentence - note how it is worked in the TEV. "The purpose [of God]" is the subject of the sentence and is modified by the adjectival phrase "according to election/selection", and has as its main verb "might remain" in a final (purpose) clause and its modifier "not of works but of the calling." The main verb is further modified by the adverbial clause " [the twins (supplied)] not yet having been born nor doing anything good or bad it was said to her ......." All a touch complex!

gar "-" - for. It is likely that the conjunction here is not expressing cause/reason, rather it is expressing a hesitation, introducing "a connection with an unexpressed thought in Paul's mind", Cranfield. In fact, Paul actually leaves the grammar of v10 incomplete in order to broach the subject of divine election.

mhpw adv. "yet" - and yet. This adverb, rare in the NT, stands with an accusative infinitive construction, or, as here, a participle.

gennhqentwn (gennaw) gen. aor. pas. part. "before (the twins) were born" - having been born. This participle, along with praxantwn, "practicing", forms a genitive absolute construction, usually a temporal construction, although with mhpw best treated as concessive; "though the children were still unborn", Moffatt, so ESV....

praxantwn (prassw) gen. aor. part. "had done [anything good or bad]" - [nor] practicing, doing [anything good or bad]. The participle as above. As noted above, v7-13 serve to illustrate the truth that not all the children of Abraham are necessarily God's children, which point is easily established by examining the actual children of both Abraham and Isaac and noting that Ishmael and Esau stood outside the covenant family. The point being that inclusion in the covenant family is dependent on something over than flesh - or for his nomist readers, works of the law. Covenant inclusion is a divine prerogative, a matter of grace, which in Christ is appropriated on the basis of faith. The alignment of law-bound believers with Israel and its traditions (esp. devotion to the Sinai law) in order to shape their Christian lives for the appropriation of God's promised covenant blessings, remains Paul's central concern. Covenant inclusion rests on the covenant faithfulness of God facilitated on the basis of faith (Christ's faithfulness, his atoning sacrifice, and our faith in his faithfulness).

iJna + subj. "in order that" - that. Forming a purpose clause, as NIV.

hJ proqesiV (iV ewV) "[God's] purpose" - the purpose, the plan in advance [of God]. The "purpose" refers to God's "plan" to call a people to himself. The genitive "God" is usually treated as verbal, subjective; "God's selective purpose", NEB.

hJ + acc. "[in election]" - the [according to election]. The article separated from the noun ekloghn, "election", by the preposition kata, "according to", expressing a standard, serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase "according to election", into an attributive modifier of "God's purpose"; "that God's purpose, which is according to election, might stand." God's plan to gather a people to himself is realized through his sovereign choice, both of a Godly line (remnant Israel) and of the method of inclusion, namely, faith. "God's purpose which is characterized by election", Cranfield.

ekloghn (h) "election" - election, selection, choice. Referring to either the act of choosing, or to those who are chosen. Along with eklegomai, eklektoV, "choose", "one chosen", expressing sovereign choice. "In order that the divine purpose with its principle of free electing choice might be exhibited", Pilcher.

menh/ (menw) pres. subj. "might stand" - might remain, abide, continue to be, not fail, be accomplished. That God's purpose will remain, no matter what", Morris. "Might be permanently based", Barclay.


This clause modifies/qualifies the verb "might stand", v11. "That the divine purpose, with its free electing choice, might be permanently based ("might stand"), not on the merits of the persons concerned, but solely on the divine initiative. God's words to Rebecca make the point, 'the elder will serve the younger.'"

ex (ek) + gen. "[not] by [works]" - [not] of/from [works]. Expressing source/origin, "from, out of = on the basis of", or means, "by". Either the result of a persons activity, or the activity itself, so, God's "choice/election" ("divine initiative", Morris) is not dependent on what we do, or the product of what we have done. The sense is probably general ("the choice of 'do' rather than 'work'" indicates that "conduct" is in mind, not "works of the law", Dunn), although Dumbrell holds that the Torah is in mind since Paul wants to establish that neither "pedigree or performance" achieves the "fulfillment of [the] divine purpose." "What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don't do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative", Peterson.

alla "but" - Strong adversative. The divine "purpose/plan" is realized through God's initiative and certainly not ours.

tou kalountoV (kalew) pres. part. "[by] him who calls" - [of, out of, from] the one calling. The participle serves as a substantive. The issue here is whether the sense of "call" is that of an effective call, so "call" in the sense of "summons", or "call" in the sense of "invitation." At least we can say that "the divine call is that which gives effect to the divine election. It is the call to a positive relationship to God's gracious purpose", Cranfield.

auth/ dat. pro. "she [was told]" - [it was said] to her (ie., Rebecca, v10). Dative of indirect object. Rather than "God said", the passive serves to avoid the use of the divine name.

oJti "-" - Introducing a dependent statement, direct quote.

oJ meizwn comp. adj. "older" - the greater one. Adjective as a substantive. "The elder shall be the servant of the younger", Cassirer.

tw/ elassoni comp. adj. "younger" - [will serve] the worse, lesser one.


Malachi 1:2-3. Best viewed as a summary text covering the issue of divine choice raised in v11-12. The corporate nature of the quote supports a new perspective position, although surely Paul is using the verse to support the divine prerogative in salvation history. Similarly, it is likely that the verse does not support the view that God chooses one group over another, or one individual over another, or believing Jews over the rest of Israel, so Sandy and Headlam, or that God loved Jacob more than Esau, so Fitzmyer, or believers over unbelievers among Israel, so Osborne. God chooses a people of promise, a Godly line, a remnant, and he chooses to include those in that remnant who, like Abraham, rest in faith on his covenant promises. In the end, Christ is remnant Israel, and in union with him, in faith, the covenant promises are ours.

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "[just as] it is written" - The perfect expressing a completed act with ongoing consequences, "was written and stands written today for us."

hgaphsa (agapaw) aor. "I loved" - [Jacob] I loved [but Esau I hated]. The aorist may be treated as constative, or possibly even gnomic. A very strong word, so also emishsa, "hate", although the Hebrew idiom is probably not as strong. Possibly "to Jacob I was drawn, but Esau I repudiated ", Berkeley, although not "I liked Jacob more than Esau", CEV. "Love" seems best in that it is an action which does not necessarily depend on anything in Jacob that is worthy of love. Words like "liked" implies that there is something worth loving, as also "drawn to." Following this line an appropriate word suiting God's response to Esau would be "I have been indifferent to Esau", Junkins.


Romans Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]