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Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Romans 9 - Part 3

We now move on to the third part of our series. Through this point we have only looked at Romans 9:1-8. We now turn to verse 9 and following to conclude the illustrations drawn from Genesis.

It should be noted that there are units of thought that the bible comes in. The paragraph or pericope that we left off in runs from verse 6 through 14. We stopped after verse 8 simply because length was already an issue. In verses 6-8 we saw that the Word of God (namely His promises) have not failed. Paul answers the objection by providing the case of Isaac verses Ishmael. Israelites, so we have been told in verse four, have the promise of “adoption as sons”. This blessing is only given to Isaac (the son of Sarah v. 9). We are told that this is because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. That is, not according to the flesh but based upon the promise of God.

In this illustration we have two possible descendents but only Isaac receives the blessing. Only Isaac is declared one of the “children of God” (verse 8).

Paul, however, continues with his second illustration. He says, “And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good of bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of the works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’”

So we have another scenario where there are two descendents who could claim to be Israel based upon the flesh. However, Paul asserts that belonging to true Israel is a matter of promise not flesh. So it is with Jacob and Esau. Jacob, based only upon the promise of God, will be a child of God (as a result of promise) and Esau is a child of the flesh (and according to verse 8 – not a child of God).

There are some who would claim that this is only relating to temporal blessings. Where this assertion seems totally without merit in the first illustration, there is something that could lead us in that direction with this illustration. The text says, “the older will serve the younger.” This does carry the hint that possibly we are talking about temporal blessings. The text also says, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. In the context of Malachi 1:2-3 this also may be hinting at temporal blessings or cursing. At first examination, Daniel and others appear to be on to something here. In fact, this used to be my main point with the text.

However, maybe Daniel is making the same mistake that I believe that I once did. It is true that temporal blessings and cursings are alluded to in this discussion about Jacob and Esau. However, might it be the case that this is a result of something greater, something eternal? One cannot read the Pentateuch even once without discovering the idea of Blessings versus Cursings. If you follow and obey your Lord then you are blessed. If you disobey and reject your creator you are cursed. At this point I am merely asking if it is possible that the temporal blessings alluded to are actually the result of the eternal state of these two men.

Now, the good observer is not going to let me just pose that question and move on. I must have some reason for asking that. If I did not you would be justified in responding “sure it is possible, but I have no reason to believe it and so I wont.”

Very well; allow me to briefly give some reasons why this might be beyond temporal blessings alone.

The first and strongest point is that verses 10-13 do not exist in a vacuum. Quite to the contrary. This is where the very first rule of hermeneutics comes into play: Context! Context! Context! As important as location is to real estate, context is just as imperative to a passage. What is our context? Hopefully you will not begin to remember Part 1 and 2 of this discussion. In Romans 8 we have a discussion on living in the Spirit. We are told that those in the flesh will have their eternal destiny in death and those who live by the Spirit will have an eternity in life. Those who live by the Spirit are adopted as sons of God and thus are considered children of God. This causes us to groan inwardly waiting for our future hope which is the resurrection. We learn that God has brought this all about because he words all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. We learn that “all things” specifically refers to the golden chain of redemption, which is consummated in glorification. With this knowledge we are told that no one can bring a charge against the elect since it is Christ who justifies. Accordingly, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul then proceeds to chapter 9 where he laments the state of the Jews. They are separated from Christ and thus eternally cursed. He wishes he could trade places with them.

Reason 1 summarized: Every bit of context is screaming Salvation, child of God, Spirit, Glory, eternal life, resurrection, etc. If this is the context, then this might at least make us consider the possibility that Jacob and Esau are used for this reason.

There is, however, a second point that we must not forget. In the counsel of Scripture we are given additional information about the eternal state of both Jacob and Esau. Consider the word of the Lord:

“Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise…” (Heb 11:9)
“By faith Jacob, as he was dying blessed each of the sons of Joseph…” (11:21)

What is the importance of this faith ...
“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (11:39-40)

Of course, the fulfillment and the perfection is found ultimately in Christ and that is why these men are to be considered “so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1).

There are very few people who would doubt the eternal state of Jacob’s soul.

What about Esau’s?

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards when he desired to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Heb 12:15-17).

Can we deny Esau’s eternal state? He is said to fall short of the grace of God, immoral, godless, etc.

There is a reason that Jacob is in the Hall of Faith and is considered a witness that we are to emulate and Esau is in chapter 12 in a warning passage.

So then, with the clear context and the biblical knowledge that we have, we must ask whether this election is only for “temporal blessings” or whether there is something deeper. It seems clear to me (for both contextual reasons and other biblical knowledge) that these two were chosen for the purpose of showing two different men with two different eternal destinies. I would really need something much more explicit in the text to suggest that this has nothing to do with eternal blessings.

In any case, we must then ask if this is conditional election or unconditional. Clearly, Paul labors the point that this is unconditional. Before the children were born, before they did anything good or bad, God choose based not on their actions but on His promise for His purpose. God chooses to lavish blessings (temporal and eternal) on Jacob and not for Esau.

Why? Isn’t this unfair? If these questions come to mind then we are in luck. Paul knew that you would ask these question and he answers the objection with another illustration in the next paragraph. We will wait for another day to tackle that passage.

In Christ alone,


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