Romans 9:6-8 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 9:6
  • Romans 9:7
  • Romans 9:8

God’s promises have not failed. Abraham was a faithful, obedient servant toward God, but that doesn’t mean all descendants of Abraham followed his example. There are some Israelites who believed in Jesus Christ, but the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus outright. There’s a distinction between biological descendants of Israel and “children of the promise.”

Paul is writing the letter to the Roman Christians to combat certain competing Jewish “authorities” in Rome who are trying to drag the believers back to following the law as a pathway to righteousness. As Paul has made clear throughout Romans, God is never to blame for man’s actions. God cannot be blamed for Israel falling away from Him, it is not as though the word of God has failed. His promises have not failed. It’s how we respond to what God offers us that affects our lives. Many Israelites do not bear a “family resemblance” even though they are descended from Abraham; they do not behave as Abraham did, who was a great man of faith, they are not all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. They pursued righteousness through the law, which inevitably leads to putting us under sin, rather than pursuing faith in God, which leads to true righteousness.

Israel at its highest level is not simply a nation or race. It is a spiritual family made up of those who believe. The fact that things are not working out like these competing Jewish “authorities” want means only that God is God, not them – or anyone else. God chooses to do what God chooses to do.

Israel, as we can see from the list of descriptions in verse 4, is supposed to be the example on earth that God uses to show people what living is supposed to be like. How we ought to live. Israel is supposed to be the holy nation, the example that everybody can see. And God put Israel in the cross-section of the world. All the trade routes went through Israel so people could see, “This is how I want you to live.” By Israel’s example, all the world could be blessed. That’s the notion. But it isn’t happening.

The people of Israel abandoned faith in God and followed the law as a means of righteousness. Their leaders rejected their own Savior when He lived among them in the flesh. It is not children of the flesh (biological descendants) who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Children of Abraham look like children of the promise, meaning Israelites who have the faith of Abraham, faith in God as a means of living righteously. Simply being physically born into the nation of Israel does not mean a person is a child of God, but living as a person of faith, a spiritual descendant from Abraham (made righteous through his faith), is what being a child of God looks like (vs. 8:30).

Famously, Jesus Himself has a lengthy argument with Israelites about heritage (John 8). In the debate, the crowd claims they are children of Abraham and children of God, and Jesus tells them if they really were children of God, they would love the son of God: Jesus. Instead, they are behaving as if their father were Satan. These Israelites had the literal Son of God standing in front them, and rather than embracing Jesus, they hated Him. At the end of that chapter, they try to stone Him.

Throughout the Old Testament and the New, God reaches out to His people. When Christ came as the ultimate figure of divine intervention, Israel rejected Him.

Biblical text

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.

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