Read: Romans 9
Background: Paul, the author of Romans, is a very Jewish man. It is his nationality and he loves his fellow Jews. In this section of Romans he struggles over the fact that Israel, the Jews, are God’s chosen people but many are not living according to Jesus Christ. Chapter nine shows his angst in this situation, wanting to believe God’s promises to Israel are true and wanting desperately to see his brothers saved, but knowing that not all have trusted in Christ.
1-3- Look at what Paul is saying! He wishes that he could give up his salvation so that his Jewish brothers and sisters could be saved. He has an unquenchable desire to see them come into the Kingdom of Jesus.
4-5- Paul lists some of the foundations for the Christian faith-they are all Jewish traditions and things God put in place for Israel.
6- What Paul refers to here is God’s election of Israel. All through the Old Testament it is clear that God has chosen Israel (not for their glory and benefit, but for God’s). However, if Jews are not following Christ than they do not have the salvation talked about in the Old Testament. Election, then, is not the same as salvation (as some would argue). You can be elected (physical/hereditary Israel) to serve God’s purposes and bring him glory but not saved (spiritual Israel). This is an important distinction to understand when reading what Paul has to say about God’s sovereignty.
7-9- Israel does not refer to the physical bloodline of people, but rather the spiritual children of Abraham’s promise.
16- No amount of good works can gain our salvation; it is only by God’s mercy that we are given the rights of children of God.
17- Paul reminds us of the story in Exodus of Pharaoh. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to display His glory among all the nations. God’s glory was more important than Pharaoh’s heart.
24- God’s salvation includes not only Jews, but also Gentiles, non-Jews. Gentiles who believe were not God’s chosen people, but are adopted as spiritual children.
32- Righteousness comes through faith, not by works. Israel tried to earn righteousness through works alone. Christ’s message was a stumbling block for Israel.
Think: I traveled abroad to Spain for a semester when I was in college. I was not super excited about going and my first night there was awful! I already missed home and knew I was a $500 plane ticket away from my family. My Spanish was appalling and I was so scared to meet my host family. My friends were with me at the not-so-clean little hostel we were staying at, and we decided to go to the roof and play some cards. There was another group of international students up there too and we avoided them. They were probably nice enough, but I was not about to make friends since I was feeling so sorry for myself. Then God started tugging on my heart. He very clearly was asking me to go hang out with these fellow travelers and share the gospel. He gave me the opportunity and the courage I needed, but I refused. In that moment I cared more about feeling sad and lonely than engaging people with the life-changing message of Jesus.
Paul’s longing and desire to see his fellow Jews come to know Jesus brings incredible conviction to me. He wanted nothing more than to see them become disciples of Christ. Paul even says that he wishes he could trade in his own salvation so that his brothers and sisters could be saved! He is radical about his faith and selfless in his pursuit of Jesus. Are we?
The best way for us to grow a desire to see our lost friends saved is by praying for them. It is amazing how God stirs our hearts for the things we begin to pray about. We also need to be looking for opportunities to share our faith. Maybe your first step is to expand your circle and meet some people who don’t know Jesus. Begin sharing life with them and letting them see how Christ’s power works in you.
Ask: Who are people God is calling you to? What are the next steps you should take in order to help them come to an understanding of Jesus? Maybe it’s just as simple as having a conversation – not one where you feel pressure to “convert” someone of bring them all the way to salvation, but one in which you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and you just tell them a little bit about what God means to you and what Jesus was all about so that they understand him a little more. Who can you have a conversation with today?