Lesson 1 – God’s Promises to Abraham Are Being Validated in Christ

God’s Promises to Abraham Are Being Validated in Christ

Lesson Aim:  To show God’s word did not fail physical Israel by identifying who is the true Israel of God.

Scripture:  Rom. 9:1-16.


One Biblical interpretation principle for reading a letter is to know what the recipients knew.  The recipients of the Roman letter had a good working knowledge of the Old Testament; therefore, we will need the same information.  The Gentiles were surely made aware of the significant moves of God beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve.  This was a part of the gospel they were taught before they were born again.

What they did not remember, Paul taught them in order for them to understand God’s purpose in the creation of mankind.  For instance, he reminded them of God’s predestined plan for the creation of mankind (Rom. 8:28-30).  They knew, or were told, what went wrong in Adam.  They knew what God did about the problems of sin and death because all people have the knowledge of good and evil.  They knew about the promises God made to Abraham for all people.  They knew about God’s grace when combined with their faith for the gift of God’s righteousness.  They knew about the Law God gave to Moses and the resulting condemnation for sinners.

The lessons in Part IV will make use of the points highlighted in the outline presented in the Introduction.  One purpose of this lesson is to help the readers of Romans know what the recipients of this letter knew in order to accomplish the aim of this lesson.  All the lessons in Part IV are designed to follow the style of the writer in chapters nine through eleven.  Application for Christians of the theology, ethics and practices Paul presented in Romans will be included.  It is not to say the Roman Christians had a “clear picture” of all Paul wrote about; otherwise, he may not have used such wonderful and dynamic explanations.  His broad coverage of all that pertains to God and His purposes for mankind may have been necessary because of the application Paul wanted to make.  His intent was to clarify these great issues in order to apply them to a situation where there was a potential for a clash of civilizations in the kingdom of God right here on earth.  The potential clash was between the Jew and Gentile in the church brotherhood.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Rom. 14:17  


Let us take note of the significant moves God made from the beginning of time until Abraham.   The major move God made with Abraham has impacted the history of mankind for over four thousand years.  The promises God made to Abraham developed the Jew/Gentile separation (Eph. 2:11-13).  We need to understand why God made this separation.  “Bad company corrupts good character” may be the best explanation for all of God’s moves to make various separations between the faithful and the unfaithful (I Cor. 15:33).

To understand the major moves of God in time we will need to first consider why God created mankind.  What was in the mind of God before He created the world?  There are many scriptures that reveal the mind of God – His secret wisdom, before creation.  See Romans 8:28-30; Eph. 1:3-6; I Cor. 2:7; Tit. 1:1, 2; II Tim. 1:9.  Please review Part I, Lessons 1, 2, & 5.

Next we will need to review our lessons from this series about Adam:  How he was a pattern of the One to come.  How sin and death came into the world through Adam.  Why death passed to all men, because all sinned.  See Rom. 5:12-14.  Please review Part I, Lessons 3 and 4.

In the days of Noah God made a dramatic move which clearly established the principle of separation.  At that time most people were lawless in regard to God’s law of life.  Evidently, God saw no hope for their repentance.  Their condition grieved Him dreadfully; however, unless they developed faith and repented, their fate was in their own hands.   God made a separation between the faithful and the faithless by drowning all people except eight.  Noah was righteous in God’s view because he lived by faith in God and the law of life.  Please read Genesis 6:1-14.  We understand the grace doctrine of “justification by faith” was in action at that time (Heb. 11:7).

Those eight people who walked off the Ark populated the earth (Gen. 11:8, 9).  A few centuries later the same condition developed as it had in the days of Noah.  This was in the days of Abraham.  Again the Lord made a separation between the lawless and the righteous.  This time He used a different method.

God made special promises to Abraham because he walked by faith in God’s law of life and His righteousness (Gen. 15:6; 26:5).  He said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  Gen. 12:1-3.  He gave the land presently called Palestine and Israel to Abraham (Gen. 13:14-18; 15:7, 18-21).  Melchizedek, God’s earthly king and priest, blessed Abraham (Gen. 14:18-20).  God multiplied Abraham’s seed and gave special protection for those who were “children of promise.”  Gen. 22:15-18; 24:6, 7; Rom. 9:6-16.

This was the beginning of the Israelite nation.  Abraham was the very first Jew, although neither he nor his descendents were called Jews until some time later.  It appears the members of the church knew about the moves of God that have been presented in the foregoing paragraphs.  Consequently, Christians and others who will seek to read the letter to the Romans need to know these things in order to properly read and interpret this document.  But why do we need to know these Old Testament stories?

It is not the stories themselves in which we have a particular interest, it is what God has embedded in them.  God has presented the doctrine of grace by faith in these stories (Eph. 2:8, 9).  It is God’s theology and ethics we need to understand.  We can see how everything God did for and with Noah and Abraham was based on the fact that they both walked by faith.  Why was this fact so important?  Christians enjoy these doctrines along with Abraham if we have faith in them.  Please review Part II, Lessons 8, 9 and 10.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.”  Heb. 11:1.  This being true we perceive something always preceded faith.  Something was preached.  What was preached becomes the focus of the hearer’s faith.  What then was the focus of the Israelites’ faith?  This will get us into Paul introductive statement to our study of Romans in chapter nine.

Paul’s brothers, “those of his own race,” had the adoption as sons, divine glory, the covenants, the Law, the temple worship, and the promises.  Theirs were the patriarchs beginning with Abraham, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ (Rom. 9:4, 5).  Paul is writing to Christians in the first century; however, it is not where it all started.  Of course, all things pertaining to mankind had their beginning in the mind of God before creation; however, the Christian’s life starts with becoming a child of Abraham.  It happened at the same time we became a child of God.

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Gal. 3:26-29

Most Jews rejected Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.  The focus of their faith, if they had any, was still on the things Paul listed in verse four.  Some of these things were still valid.  The law and the temple service were merely a copy of things to come.  They had missed that point (Heb.  9:23).  To the serious Jew all of these promises were the real thing.  This is still the common faith among most Jews in the world today.  It is also a great confusion to many others who espouse Christianity.  The term Judean-Christian religion depicts their confusion.  It is not a Biblical term.  Judah was only one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Many Jews were living throughout the Roman Empire at the time Paul wrote this letter.  The focal point of their faith would be toward physical Jerusalem and Israel by natural birth (9:8).  They stumbled over the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the “stone of Zion.”  Paul viewed Jesus as the Messiah after He appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6).  Consequently, He knew most of his Jewish kinsmen were lost (Rom. 10:1-4).  Some might say if the mass of Abraham’s off-spring were lost then God’s word to Abraham had failed.  Some Jewish enemies of Jesus such as the Pharisees would be capable of promoting that erroneous thought.  Some Jews had already said it was alright to accept Christ if they kept the Law and circumcision (Acts 15:5; Gal. 5:1, 2).

Paul did not want anyone to entertain the thought that God’s word had failed at any time or in any situation.  Therefore, he embarked on a course to clarify what needed be understood:  “It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Romans 9:6.  (Note Paul used of “Israel” in two ways) 

However, the only way to effectively show how God’s word had not failed was to properly identify Israel.  Therefore, he took up both issues together.  Providing material to clarify these two issues will dominate the second portion of Paul’s letter, that is, chapters 9-11.

As it was stated previously, Christians must start their identity with Abraham and this is exactly where Paul went in order to identify Israel, the  saved.  “Nor because they are descendants are they all Abraham’s children.”  9:7.  At this point Paul presented the doctrine of “God’s purpose in election.”  9:11.  The root meaning of the word election is to “pick out.”  God picked out of Abraham’s descendents those He desired to serve His purpose.  God chose certain individuals with which He made promises and covenants.  Please read 9:6-16.

Those God chose are identified as the elect (see the outline in the introduction under chapter 11 – election is key).  Remember, God is working with mankind to bring about His purpose in creation.  Mankind “sinned and fell short of the glory of God.”  Rom. 3:23.  This was the reason “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.”  Rom. 11:32 also 9:15.  Mankind was created to be sons of God in His glorious kingdom (Rom. 8:18, 19).  God first chose Abraham for the purpose of carrying on His plan in spite of the fact that mankind fell from His glory.   Jesus Christ, a child of Abraham, was also God’s elect to finish the plan (Luke 23:35; Heb. 2:10).  Paul chose other children of Abraham – Isaac and Jacob.

Now we know the children of promise has always been the Israel of God.  The point Paul wants the church to catch is that God chooses and promises.  This identifies the members of the church as the elect; therefore, “children of promise.”  God does not need or desire man’s help (9:16).  To those God chooses He makes promises as He did to Abraham.  Man must accept God’s choosing and promises by their own faith; therefore, the elect are always children of promise.   “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” 9:8.

Christians have been called by God through the gospel.  Those who accept the promises in the gospel by faith are the elect (Rom. 8:33; Tit. 1:1; I Pet. 1:2; 2:9).  The church in Rome was the Israel of God and the true circumcision (Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:3, 20).  They were the saved; therefore, God’s word had not failed.  This is the true identity of all churches of Christ who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus and who accept the Biblical form of church government (Acts 20:28; Rom. 16:16; I Thess. 2:14).

What about God’s promise to Israel?  Has God’s word failed?  God swore by Himself when He made the promises to Abraham (Heb. 6:13-20).  If His word has failed, nothing is certain.  It is for this reason the Apostle Paul takes up this subject.  His entire argument stands on the proper identity of God’s children.  He assures the church that God’s word did not fail and the promises made to Abraham are as sure as ever.

The children of God are now enjoying God’s promises.  God’s children are identified as:

Saints . . . . Rom. 1:7
Children of promise . . . . Rom. 9:8
Vessels of mercy . . . . Rom. 9:23
My beloved people . . . . Rom. 9:25
Sons of the living God . . . . Rom. 9:26
The remnant . . . . Rom. 9:27
The lump and the branches . . . . Rom. 11:16, 17
Sons of Abraham . . . . Rom. 4:13-18
Citizens of the kingdom of God . . . . Rom. 14:17
Members of the church of Christ . . . . Rom.16:16

There is one term that cannot be used to identify God’s children.   It is the fleshly descendants of Abraham (Rom. 9:7, 8).  The children of Israel
did indeed number as the sand of the sea but it was the remnant that enjoyed salvation (Rom. 9:27).  At the time Paul wrote to the Romans, he could say, “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”  Rom. 11:5.  It is the Lord’s church that was built by Jesus (Matt. 16:18).  Those who repented were baptized for the remission of their sins and were the first to be added to the church (Acts 2:38, 47).

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is it important for a person who wants to be saved to know about Abraham?
  2. What was the similarity between the days of Noah and the days of Abraham?
  3. What method did God use to separate the righteous from the sinner in the above cases?
  4. Explain the following statement made by Paul, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”
  5. Explain why God chose certain individuals from Abraham’s ancestry to make covenants and promises.
  6. Explain the phrase, “God’s purpose in election” in 9:11.
  7. What were the conditions that allowed Abraham to have the fulfillment of God’s promise?
  8. What were the advantages that Israel enjoyed over the Gentiles?
  9. Name the ancestry through whom the Messiah entered this world?
  10. Will the unfaithful Jew be given a second chance?
  11. What is the present day situation for physical Israel?
  12. When will all Israel be saved?

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