Paul’s Sorrow Over Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Paul’s Sorrow Over the Israelites and God’s Providence (Romans 9:1-5; part 1 of a 5 part message on Romans 9) 

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 27, 2021

Martin Luther shared:

My conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and to go against conscience or Scripture is neither right nor safe.[1]

We now come to a passage in Romans in which the Apostle Paul shares his heart for his people. From the very beginning he references that he is telling the truth and references his conscience and the Holy Spirit as his witness.

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

  1. Pauls grief over Israel (9:1–3): The apostle is so burdened over Israel’s unbelief that he is willing to suffer eternal damnation if that would help them come to Christ.
    1. Introduction to the section.
    2. Notice that this is coming after Romans 8. Romans 8 was all about the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 shows that if we are saved, we have the Holy Spirit (verse 9). Romans 8 was about how we can cry out “Abba Father,” that is “Daddy, Daddy” (verse 15). Romans 8 was all about how we have the privileges of adoption (verses 16-17). Romans 8 was about how if God is for us who can be against us (verse 31). Romans 8 was about how our present suffering does not compare to our eternal glory (verse 18). Romans 8 was about how God did not spare His own Son and that shows that He will graciously provide for us all things (verse 32). Romans 8 was all about how nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing (verses 38-39).
    3. Then, we come to Romans 9.
    4. In Romans 9 Paul begins to deal with Israel. Paul will write about Israel from Romans chapter 9 through Romans chapter 11.
    5. Some think that these chapters deal with Israel but also individual election as well as individual reprobation. In other words, some think that Romans 9 is about Israel, but also how God elects individuals to salvation and then those who are not elect to salvation are reprobate which essentially means that they are elected to hell. This means that some are predestined to salvation and others are predestined to hell.
    6. I talked about my views on this a few weeks ago and how I like the Molinism view, also called Middle Knowledge. HOWEVER, I agree with Bobby Murphy that this passage is not about individuals but nations.
    7. The view that I will be outlining throughout my sermons on Romans 9 will be the typical Arminian view with a flavor of Molinism/Middle Knowledge added. That is where I fall on these verses and the subject of predestination and election.
    8. Remember that election is corporate, and predestination is individuals. God elects corporate groups and God predestines individuals.
    9. The predestined will be saved and then they become part of the corporate church (the elect). HOWEVER, I believe the predestined are predestined based off of their free choice to receive or reject Christ with the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit convicting them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. For a quick review, no one can receive Christ but that the Father draws them to Him (John 6:44 and 65). Therefore, we believe that God’s prevenient grace sends the Holy Spirit to people to convict them they are a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe since God knows what we would do in any situation, God knows whether a person will, or will not, receive Christ given the opportunity and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and those people are predestined. But they are predestined based off of God’s foreknowledge.  
    10. So, we will come back to that in a few weeks. But, I think it is clear that this chapter is saying that God has a right to do with nations as He pleases.
    11. Over the last 17 years I have spent a lot of time studying these topics. About a year and a half ago I was meeting with a ministry leader in the community, and he challenged me on this passage. Since then, I have spent countless hours studying this chapter. I have read several books on this chapter and talked with many scholars about it. In college and seminary I had required reading dealing with this subject, but have only preached a few times, and those very cursory, on this subject. Now, begins a series on some of the most controversial verses of Romans, and I dare say the Bible.
    12. Last fall, I met with a Bible teacher who thought that up until Romans 9 Romans has been about individuals, not nations and therefore this is about individuals.
    13. I STRONGLY disagree. All throughout Romans Paul has been contrasting two corporate groups:
      • Romans 1= Gentiles
      • Romans 2=Jews
      • Romans 3= Jews and then Gentiles with the Jews in verses 23-31
      • Romans 4= example of justification from the Old Testament
      • Romans 5= example of sin nature from the Old Testament and the fix through Jesus; example of Adam to Moses and then Jesus; example of sin reigning in death and grace and righteousness in Jesus (Romans 5:21)
      • Romans 6= believers, the corporate group of believers, dead to sin, alive to God
      • Romans 7= both believers and unbelievers, dead to sin, we don’t need more Law, the Law could not save us, we needed Divine help.
      • Romans 8= the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life= victory in Christ.
    14. As we can see Romans chapters 1-5 are a strong contrast between the Gentiles and the Jews and the Law and grace. Then, Romans chapters 6-8 are more about believers. These are corporate references.
    15. Therefore, I think the case is strong that we are dealing with Scriptures talking about corporate groups, in this case God can do what He wants with nations. That is not to say that God does not have a right to do what He wants with people. He does, He is God.
    16. Okay, it is past time we talk about these verses. These first five verses are fairly straightforward.

Verse 1: I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit

  • Paul is getting into a subject that is very important to him and many people would have questions about.
    • Paul is Jewish, what about the Jewish people? The Savior came through the Jewish line, do they get a free ticket to Heaven? What about the Jews that reject Jesus? Paul has been writing in Romans chapter 2 and 3, and other places, that they need a Savior as well (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
    • Paul says the Holy Spirit is his witness.
    • The genre of these verses is a lament. A lament for his ethnic group.
    • At the beginning of chap. 3 the question was raised about what advantage there was in being a Jew (v. 1). It was occasioned by the previous paragraph, which established that mere membership in the Jewish nation was insufficient to warrant God’s praise. To be a Jew one had to be one inwardly. Real circumcision was inward and accomplished by the Spirit, not outward obedience to a written code. In fact, the entire second chapter of Romans undermined any confidence that Paul’s readers might have had that on the basis of their national identity they would receive favored treatment from God. The obvious question was what benefit there was in being a Jew. Paul started to answer the question in 3:2 but then returned to the major theme of showing that all people, regardless of their national origin, are under the condemnation of sin. It is only now in chap. 9 that we find a full answer to the earlier question. Chapters 9–11 discuss the subject of God’s righteousness in view of his apparent rejection of the Jewish nation.1[2]

Verse 2: that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

  • Paul has great sorrow AND unceasing unguish, think about that word, Paul has anguish in his heart that does not cease. What is this anguish about?

Verse 3: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

  • Paul has sorrow for his people. He wishes that he could be accursed and cut off from Christ… hold on a minute. Paul is making a strong statement there. He wishes he could go to hell and they could be saved. He knows that this is impossible and he is likely using a little bit of hyperbole to drive home his emotions. He REALLY cares about the Jewish people.
    • “accursed” MacArthur shares: The Gr. word is anathema, which means “to devote to destruction in eternal hell” (cf. 1Co 12:3; 16:22; Gal 1:8, 9). Although Paul understood the exchange he was suggesting was impossible (8:38, 39; Jn 10:28), it was still the sincere expression of his deep love for his fellow Jews (cf. Ex 32:32).[3]
    • He would be accursed if it would save them, but as one source shares: But he knows this would achieve nothing, for none but Christ could be any person’s substitute to bear God’s wrath.[4]
    • Moses voiced a similar self-sacrificing wish for the Israelites’ salvation (Exod. 32:30–35).[5]
    • In the book of Acts, during Paul’s missionary journeys, his pattern was to go to the Jewish people first and then when they rejected him he went to the gentiles (See Acts 13 and 14 specifically).
    • He calls them “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” This means that the Jews are his family in a genetic/biological way. Paul will expand on this in the next few verses.

There is a story told about a mother who came to Napoleon on behalf of her son, who was about to be executed. The mother asked the ruler to issue a pardon, but Napoleon pointed out that it was the man’s second offense and justice demanded death.

“I don’t ask for justice,” the woman replied. “I plead for mercy.”

The emperor objected, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.”

“Sir,” the mother replied, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask.”

Her son was granted the pardon.[6]

  1. Gods gifts to Israel (9:4–5)
    • These next few verses talk about who the Israelites are.

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

  • Paul is about to give 9 spiritual advantages of Israel.  
    • They are a special nation (9:4a).
    • They have been adopted by God (9:4b, 5).
    • They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c).
    • They have been given the covenants (9:4d).
    • They have been given the law (9:4e).
    • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f).
    • They have the messianic promises (9:4g).
    • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
    • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[7]
    • Now, we could spend time on each one of those 9, but let’s just make a few brief comments.
      • They are a special nation. God chose Abraham in Genesis 12 and reaffirmed the covenant with Him and then Moses and then David throughout the Old Testament. The Messiah, Jesus, came through the line of Abraham, that is from Israel (see Genesis 12, 17; Exodus 19-24; Deut. 28 and 29; 2 Samuel 7).
      • They have been adopted by God. This goes back to Genesis 12 and is re-affirmed by the prophets. In Exodus 4:22 God calls Israel His firstborn son.
      •  They have had Gods glory revealed to them (9:4c). Think of all the miracles in the Old Testament. Think of them seeing God’s glory. Think of the Red Sea splitting (Exodus 14:13ff). Think of the pillar of fire guarding them and the cloud by day leading them (Exodus 13:21). Think of the manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16). Think of the miracles with the prophets, the prophets of Baal and Elijah in 1 Kings 18:20-40.
      • They have been given the covenants (9:4d). See verses on number 1.
      • They have been given the law (9:4e). As mentioned Exodus 20.
      • They have the privilege of worshiping him (9:4f). It is a privilege to worship God.
      • They have the messianic promises (9:4g). All of these promises of the Messiah came through Israel.
      • They have a godly ancestry (9:5a).
      • They are the people from which Christ came (9:5b).[8] The Messiah, Jesus came through the Israelites (Matthew 1:17; Luke 3:23-38).
    • As an important note, some of those promises are future as well, one source shares: Some of the privileges in vv. 4–5 have future components as well as past ones. For example, Israel’s adoption as sons is grounded in God’s selection of Israel as the recipient of His covenant blessings (cf. Ex 4:22; Jr 31:9). But Israel’s sonship also has a glorious future component for Jewish believers (see Is 43:6; 45:11; 63:16–17; 64:8–12; Hs 1:10; Mal 3:17, all in eschatological contexts). This suggests, among other things, that God is not finished with the Jewish people yet, the primary point of Rm 9; 10, and 11. The future implications of these blessings gave Paul hope that God had not broken off relations with Israel and would yet keep His promises—all of them—to the people. Verse 5 indicates that Christ shares the divine nature, was incarnate, is absolutely sovereign, but is also worthy of eternal acclamation (blessed forever). Paul’s anguish stems from his awareness that the Jewish people were not (yet!) experiencing everything God promised them, including their own exalted Messiah. Each of the privileges in 9:4–5 belongs to Israel presently (note the present tense are in 9:4a), suggesting that these privileges have not been rescinded. Their experience of these blessings, however, is contingent upon faith in Christ.[9]
    • In the beginning of Romans 9 Paul shares his passion for Israel.
    • Paul shares that it is a privilege to be an Israelite.
    • Most of all the Messiah, Jesus, came through Israel and saves Jews and gentiles all who believe, and Paul wants the Jewish people to be saved.
    • Notice how Paul ends verse 5: who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
    • Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate.[10]
    • In two weeks we will pick up on verse 6, but look at the first part of verse 6 right now: But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
    • The Word of God has not failed. Remember that.
    • God had a plan for Israel to bless the nations. In verses 23-26 Paul will write about how God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • Realize that God used Israel to bless the nations.
    • God used ethnic Israel to save the gentiles through Jesus. Throughout the whole Old Testament God was watching over Israel for a few purposes, one of them, was that Jesus would come through Israel and save you and me.
    • God wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9).
  • Applications:
    • Can we speak with the Holy Spirit as our witness that we are being honest (verse 1)?
      • We must be about the truth.
      • We must not share anything that is not true.
      • We must check our motivations for what we share as well.
      • We must not forward an email that is not true.
      • We must not forward an email that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a social media post that we cannot verify as true.
      • We must not share a news article that is not true.
      • We must care about the truth and falsehood must bother us.
    • Do we have a passion for our ethnic group to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we have a passion for our family to be saved (verses 2-3)?
    • Do we recognize all of the spiritual benefits of Israel? We must recognize God’s place for Israel (verses 4-5).
    • We must praise God for Israel and pray for Jewish people to be saved (verses 1-5 and Romans 11).
    • We must accept the Gospel and share the Gospel.  

Let me repeat my theme:

My theme today is:

We see Paul’s passion that his people would be saved and we see all of the spiritual benefits the Israelites were blessed with.

My application:

Do we care about people’s salvation? Paul wanted, desperately wanted, his ethnic group to be saved.

The worst sin is not to hate a fellow creature but to be indifferent toward him. That’s the essence of humanity.

—George Bernard Shaw, quoted in John Bartlett, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations[11]

Salvation is a gift from God:

A young man named Sinner once received from his Father a beautiful, bright-red convertible. He named it Salvation—sparkling, new, clean, modern, powerful.

It delighted the young man so much, especially because it was a gift. He could never have afforded it. So delighted, the boy even changed his name from Sinner to Saved.

He polished his car every week. Took pictures of it. Sent it to friends. Looked it over—front, back, under, top, bottom, inside out. Never—never tired of telling others about the gift. “My Father gave it to me. It was free!”

Some days later Saved was seen out on the highway, pushing Salvation. An individual named Helper walked up and introduced himself and asked if he could assist.

“Oh, no thanks. Just out enjoying my new car,” as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Just had a little trouble because my bumper kept cutting my hands, especially on these hills. But then a nice man helped me. Showed me how to mount little rubber cushions right here, underneath the bumper, and now I can push this thing for hours without a blister. Also, I’ve been trying something new lately. They use it over in England. You put your back against the car, lift, and it works like a charm, especially on muddy roads.”

Helper asked, “Have you pushed the car very far?”

“Well, about 200 miles altogether. It’s been hard, but since it was a gift from my Father, that’s the least I can do in return to thank him.”

Helper opened the door on the right side and said, “Get in.”

After hesitation, he decided it was worth a try and he slid in on the passenger side and rested for the first time since he’d been given the car. Helper walked around, opened the door, slid behind the wheel, and started the car.

“What’s all that noise?” he said. Moments later they were moving down the highway quietly, at fifty, sixty miles an hour. He was taken aback. It all seemed to fall into place. It was even exciting. He knew he needed this Salvation Car to be admitted through the gate at the end of the highway. But somehow he felt that getting there was his responsibility.

—Larry Christenson, The Renewed Mind[12]


[1] Source: Martin Luther, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.


[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 194–195.

[3] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 9:3.

[4] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2172.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 9:3.

[6] Source: John Koessler, in the sermon “Blessed Are the Merciful,”

[7] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[8] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 9:1–5.

[9] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1759.

[10] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 9:5.

[11] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 296.

[12] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 504–505.

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