Romans 9 Outline


Full Commentary Available on Amazon


by Dr. Leighton Flowers


A. In the previous eight chapters, Paul made man’s need and God’s gracious provision through Christ abundantly clear.

B. Paul ends chapter 8 on such a high note in reflection of the endless, inseparable love God has for those who are in an abiding, loving relationship with Him (8:9,28).

C. The tone shifts dramatically to the topic of Paul’s great sorrow and continual grief for Israel who has now been “cut off in their unbelief” (Rom. 11:20).


A. Paul testifies to the seriousness and sincerity of his inspired words.

“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit”

(1) This is not merely an emotional appeal from the heart of a Jew who desires to see more of his own kind saved.

(2) Instead, it is a witness of the Spirit Himself inspiring the apostle’s deep conviction and desire for all lost souls.

B. Paul demonstrates a Christ-like, self-sacrificial plea for hardened Israel

“that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart”

(1) Paul shifts from celebrating the relationship of the believer, those grafted in by faith, to reflecting on the overwhelming number of those cut off for their unbelief from his own country of Israel, a topic that continues into the following chapters (11:20).

(2) Here, the apostle deals with his feelings about the current condition of Israel, who has rejected their own Messiah. How does that reflect on God’s promise made to Israel (Gen. 12:3)? Has God failed to keep that promise? If God will not keep His promise to Israel, then how can we know He will keep His promise to us?

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh”

(1) This is a self-sacrificial, Christ-like love for those who have become his enemies. Paul again expresses this desire for unbelieving Israel in 10:1, which is repeated with a quote from God’s own lips in 10:21.

(2) This likewise reflects the same heart of Moses referenced by the apostle in 9:15: “Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin; but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written’” (Exodus 32:31-32).

(3) Most importantly, Paul reflects the very desire of Jesus, who was willing to be accursed for his enemies that they might be saved (Gal. 3:13).


A. Given that any nationality may be saved through faith and many from Israel do not believe, then what benefit is there in being a Jew?

“…who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

(1) As first mentioned in 3:1-2, the apostle here reminds the reader the benefit or blessing of being a natural descendant of Israel.

(2) The very Word of God was entrusted to Israel (Rom. 3:2), which included the MESSIAH and His redemptive MESSAGE.

(3) The special revelation of God, which all served to testify and prepare the way for the Messiah and His gospel, came by way of this elect nation.

B. Israel’s unfaithfulness and their being cut off for unbelief does not negate this blessing, or the promise that first brought that blessing to this elect nation of God (Gen. 12:3; Rom. 3:3-4).


A. Since the very people entrusted to bring the Word are standing in opposition to it, then has His Word failed?

“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect”

(1) The ones entrusted with the Word are opposing the Word, so then, has the Word failed?

(2) God’s word has not failed despite how things may appear from our limited human perspective.

(3) The fulfillment of God’s Word, as promised to Abraham, is not dependent upon the faithfulness of Israelites (Rom. 3:3-4).

B. So, the many descendants of Israel you are seeing stand in opposition to the Word, were not chosen by God to carry the Word, thus it cannot be concluded that God’s Word has failed.

“For they are not all Israel who are of Israel”

(1) Not every descendant of Israel is chosen to carry out the purpose for which God elected Israel.

(2) Not every descendant of Israel is blessed to be in the lineage of the Messiah or to be an inspired messenger of God’s word.

C. Not every descendant of Israel is guaranteed salvation on the basis of being of Israel.

“nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”

(1) Abraham’s two sons, by two different mothers, is used allegorically by Paul to represent the two covenants of Law and Faith, as Paul’s own self-commentary explains in Gal. 4:21-25: “Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.” (Gal. 4:21-25, NASB, emphasis added).

(a) Abraham worked to bring about a nation through Hagar, so she and Ishmael is used by Paul allegorically to represent the covenant of works. For the most part, Israel is pursuing righteousness by works and they are not attaining it (vs 31).

(b) Abraham should have waited on God’s promise to Sarah by faith, so she and Isaac are being used by Paul allegorically to represent the covenant of grace which is applied through faith. Many more Gentiles are pursuing righteousness by faith and therefore are attaining it (vs 30).

(2) This is the apostle’s way of using a history lesson to remind his audience that being a seed of Abraham does not mean one is guaranteed the blessings listed in verses 4 and 5, which were specific to the seed of Isaac.

(3) Nor does it guarantee the eternal blessing of being a child of God, which comes by faith in God’s promise (symbolized by Isaac, whose birth came by grace) to whosoever believes, not by works of the law (symbolized by Ishmael, whose birth came by works).


A. Israel (Jacob) was chosen to be the means by which the Messiah and His message would come to the world.

“For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.’”

(1) This is the way in which the word of promise given to Abraham (Gen. 12:3) is to be fulfilled.

(2) Isaac will be the lineage through whom the Word would come: The Messiah and His message come through Isaac’s seed, not Ishmael’s.

(3) Sarah is a free woman and represents the covenant of faith, as opposed to the covenant of law represented by the slave woman (Gal. 4:21-25).

“And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac…”

(1) The apostle is taking this one step further by not only seeking to prove his claims about the descendants of Abraham are true, but to even more specifically show that not even the direct descents of Isaac are:

(a) Guaranteed salvation on the basis they are a descendant.

(b) Chosen for the noble purpose of bringing the Word to the rest of the world.

“(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls) it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.'”

(1) God’s choice of Jacob, the lesser of the two brothers in age and physical prowess, was for the noble purpose of bringing the Word to the rest of the world.

(2) God’s choice to fulfill His promise is not based upon the impressiveness of the nation (Deut. 7:7) or the morality of its representative head (Gen. 25:23).

(3) The fulfillment of God’s Word has never relied upon the faithfulness or morality of the individuals chosen to carry it out (Rom. 3:3-4).

(4) Neither brother would be justified apart from grace through faith in God, even though they are direct descendants of both Abraham and Isaac.

(5) Salvation is by the covenant of grace through faith in the call of God, not the covenant of law through works.

B. Other descendants of Abraham (Esau and the Edomites) were not chosen for this noble purpose.

 “As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’”

(1) Over 1500 years separate this quote in Malachi from the previous verse quoted from Genesis indicating more of a “before and after picture” of what happened to Esau and his lineage.

(2) The expressed hatred toward Esau’s household reflected in the quote from Malachi reveals:

(a) Even direct descendants of Isaac himself (Edom) are not chosen for the noble purposes that God elected Israel, thus one should not assume that the opposition of direct descendants to God’s Word is an indication of its failure.

(b) Even direct descendants of Isaac himself (Edom) are not guaranteed salvation, especially if they remain in opposition to those who are chosen to bring the Word of God. As conditioned upon the original promise… “I will curse those who curse you” (Gen. 12:3).

(3) Many examples in scripture are given to show the concept of “hate” referring to simply rejecting (without disdain) one over another for a noble task (Genesis 29:31, 33; Deuteronomy 21:15; Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:26; John 12:25).
Esau was also blessed and protected by God (Deut. 23:7, Gen. 33:8-16, Gen. 36), so the “hatred” was either:

(a) conditioned upon the Edomites attack upon Israel and/or…

(b) in reference to God’s selection of Jacob and his lineage for the noble purpose over Esau and his lineage.


A. God’s choosing to bless one descendant over another descendant does not make Him unrighteous.

“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!”

(1) The descendants of Abraham in Paul’s day had two false perceptions:

(a) Every descendant deserves the benefit of bringing God’s Word. However, the truth is that God has only selected a remnant through whom to bring His Word.

(b) Every descendant deserves eternal life on the basis of their being of Israel. However, no one is saved based on nationality but only upon grace through faith.

(2) Those nations, and the individuals therein, who oppose God’s Word remain under the curse (hatred), as illustrated by Edom (direct descendants of Isaac himself).

(3) There is no unrighteousness with God for choosing some descendants for a noble cause and not others, nor is it unjust to condemn a descendant of Abraham who stands in opposition to the Word of God.

B. God can have mercy on unfaithful desendants when it serves His purpose.

“For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’”

(1) Mercy is patiently refraining from punishing someone who deserves to be punished, it does not mean effectual salvation.

(a) Paul’s reference to Moses’ encounter with God in Exodus 32-33 gives a perfect historical example of when God was merciful to Israel when they deserved to be destroyed for their unfaithfulness (worshipping a golden calf).

(b) This example also parallels Moses’ self-sacrificial Christ-like love for Israel as reflected by Paul in the opening verses of this chapter… “forgive their sin—and if not blot me out…” (Ex. 32:31-32).

(2) Certainly God may choose to save whosoever He is pleased to save (scripture teaches He chooses to save those who humble themselves and repent in faith – 1 Pt. 5:5-6), but this passage is in reference to God patiently showing mercy to unfaithful Israel so as to fulfill His original promise through them even though they deserve condemnation.

C. God’s purpose in electing Israel is not dependant upon the willing and running of Israel

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”

(1) “It” refers to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring His Word despite Israel’s unfaithfulness (Rom. 3:3-4).

(2) The promise depends on our merciful God, not on the faithfulness (“willing and running”) of Abraham or his descendants.

(a) Abraham “willed and ran” in the flesh to produce a son through Hagar (who Paul used symbolically to represent the covenant of law and works, Gal. 4:24).

(b) God, by his mercy, provided Isaac through the free woman, Sarah (who Paul used symbolically to represent the covenant of grace by faith in the call of God, Gal. 4:21-26).


A. God can harden the unfaithful when it serves His purposes.

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’”

(1) In the same way God hardened the already rebellious will of Pharaoh in order to accomplish the first Passover, so too God hardened the already rebellious wills of Israelites to accomplish the real Passover.

(2) God’s power and goodness was displayed in ‘mercy-ing’ unfaithful Israelites in the day of Moses and in hardening the unfaithful Israelites in the day of the Messiah.

B. God can patiently refrain from punishing Israel when they deserve it to accomplish His purpose, and He can cut them off in their unbelief to accomplish His purpose.

“Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”

(1) Sometimes God will fulfill His promises by showing Israelites mercy, but His Word will never fail.

(2) Sometimes God will fulfill His promises by hardening Israelites, but His Word will never fail.

(a) Those judicially hardened or cut off are not born in this condition, but have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion (Acts 28:27),

(b) they are cut off for unbelief (11:20)

(c) and the hope of the apostle is that they may be grafted back in and saved (11:11-32).


A. Why blame someone if their rebellious actions were apart of God’s plan?

“You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will? But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?”

(1) You (an Israelite hardened to accomplish God’s promise) will say to me (an Israelite shown mercy to accomplish God’s promise), why are we to blame if God’s will is being fulfilled?

(2) As the apostle already indicated in 3:5, this is a man-made argument that reveals a heart that has become calloused in its rebellion, otherwise they might see, hear, understand and repent (Acts 17:30; 28:27).

B. Do those cut off and hardened by God have the right to question God’s judgements?

“Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”

(1) The lump of hardened clay represents Israel who is had grown calloused in rebellion (Acts 28:27) and who are now being re-molded into two kinds of vessels:

(a) Those unfaithful Israelites remolded, by means of signs from the incarnate Messiah Himself, to bring the Word.

(b) Those unfaithful Israelites remolded, by means of judicially hardening, to accomplish the ignoble purpose of bringing redemption on the cross and the grafting in of the Gentiles (yet they still may be saved, Rom. 11:11-32).


A. God is just to demonstrate his wrath and power through rebellious people (even if they are of His elect nation).

“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known”

(1) By hardening Pharaoh God demonstrated his power over all the false Egyptian gods.

(2) Just as God manifests Himself through Pharaoh’s judicial hardening, He likewise does so through Israel’s judicial hardening.

B. God may be patient and merciful on rebellious people when it serves a greater redemptive purpose.

“endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”

(1) God patiently put up with Israel, even in their stubborn rebellion, so as to accomplish a greater redemptive good (crucifixion and the grafting in of the Gentiles).

(2) Due to their continual unbelief and rebellion, Israel prepared themselves for wrath and destruction.

(3) Being “cut off,” “given over” or “prepared” for the destruction is what they have earned by their own free rebellion (like the Edomites and Egyptians before them).

“and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”

(1) The promise made to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (by the coming Messiah and His message) is now being fulfilled through the hardening and mercy-ing of Israel.

(2) The vessels prepared for mercy are “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3) who God has promised His blessing from the very beginning: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13; Joel 2:32).

(3) God’s plan has always been to glorify whosoever believes and trust in Him, whether of Israel or the other nations of the Earth.


A. The Prophets of old spoke of these truths.

“As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.” And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.’”

(1) Notice that even in the original context the author acknowledges God’s genuine love for Israel despite their rebellion (Hosea 3:1), which is echoed by Paul throughout his entire context (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1, 21; 11:11-32).

(2) God told Hosea to call his child “Lo-Ammi,” meaning “Not My People.” However, God also promised this was temporary.

(3) People formerly not known to be His people are now benefitting from the redemptive plan God has brought to pass through both the noble and ignoble vessels formed by the merciful Potter from the predominantly unfaithful lump of Israelite clay.

B. Paul is using the scriptures to demonstrate that this has always been God’s mysterious redemptive plan (Eph. 3:1-13).

“Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.’ And as Isaiah said before: ‘Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.’”

(1) Regardless of the Israelites unfaithfulness throughout the generations God has always saved a believing remnant from physical destruction so as to carry out the purpose for which Israel was first elected: to bring the Word to the world.

(2) God’s promise will not fail, even if Israel is unfaithful.

(3) If Israel had received what they deserved they would have been like the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

(4) Though the number of natural descendants are as countless as all the sand of the sea, only those Israelites who (like the Gentiles) pursue righteousness by faith would attain it.


A. Paul gives an inspired summary of this chapter.

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.”

(1) The Gentiles did not run after the law and desire to keep the commandments in order to earn God’s favor (the covenant laws represented by Hagar/Ishmael to begin this chapter), but they trusted in His promise (the covenant promise represented by Sarah/Isaac, see Gal. 4:21-26).

(2) The Israelites, in contrast, did run after and desire to keep the commandments in order to attain righteousness (much like Abraham trying to produce a son in the flesh through a slave woman), but they have not attained it.

B. From the beginning this chapter has been about faith or works, not synergism or monergism. Salvation is all of God. But our sovereign God chooses to save those who pursue righteousness by faith rather than by works regardless of their nationality or morality.

“Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.” 

(1) Why were the Israelites not able to attain righteousness?

(a) Was it because they were rejected by God before the foundation of the earth and not given the grace they needed to believe? By no means!

(b) The apostle’s answer is clear and the difference is faith verses works, not chosen or un-chosen.

(2) All who seek to attain righteousness by works rather than faith will fail to attain it.

“For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’”

(1) The idea of a Messiah being crucified by the Israelites own hand was a “stumbling stone and a rock of offense.” To admit Jesus was their own Messiah would require them to own up to the shame of crucifying Him. But the apostle reminds them that whoever believes in Christ will not be put to shame for their wrong doing (see also Rom. 10:11).

(2) Throughout this letter to the church in Rome, Paul clearly explains that salvation is attained by faith rather than works. So, why were some unable to attain righteousness? They pursued righteousness by law (Rom. 3:10-19) rather than by faith (Rom. 3:21-31). One should not assume that because the former is unattainable so is the latter.

17 thoughts on “Romans 9 Outline

  1. I hope and pray that your book gets wider exposure! I don’t know if you saw any of the times when I pointed to Rom 9:25 as a means to get Calvinists to rethink what being loved by God means. For either “beloved” in that verse means “elect” and “not beloved” means “not elect” or “beloved” is more encompassing, like special nation status including elect and non-yet elect, to receive God’s grace (cf 11:28).

    If the Calvinist wants to defend that “beloved” in 9:25 means “elect”, then they must jettison the idea of eternally immutably individually elect, since in that verse the same ones were “not beloved” at least for some period of time. If the Calvinist wants to concede that “beloved” in 9:25 means some entity that includes both elect and non-yet elect, then they should have no problem seeing everyone in all of the nation of Israel as beloved for the gospel sake, or everyone in all nations as beloved for the gospel sake for that matter.

    What do you think?

  2. Leighton:

    Thanks. I realize that this is just an outline.

    I was hoping to see a reference to Jeremiah’s Potter’s house story in Jeremiah 18. Surely this is what the Roman’s 9 Potter is alluding to.

    4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

    It is amazing that the Lord God Almighty would use an example where He as the Potter, allowed the clay to be “marred in his hands.” Then He started over with another plan. That would seem to teach the opposite of determinism.

    But to make sure we understand, He goes on…

    5 Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6 He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

    This story illustrates that the Rom 9 passage was addressing (a) the “all Israel and only Israel?” question, and (b) the “who are you Israelites to question whether I want to let gentiles in question?” and (c) the “does God react to man?” question.

      1. I found this outline incredibly helpful in understanding Romans 9. Some of it I had put together on my own, but there were still some very difficult parts that I was uncertain how Paul’s argument and chain of thought were developing. A question for Leighton or his administrators, ‘Do you have an outline available for chapters 10 and 11? If not can you point me to one?’ Thank you for your work.

  3. In fact I would go so far as to say that the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah ….if read without the Calvinistic lens of “we know it does not mean what it says”…. are the 1-2 punch for a knockout of all things deterministic.

    Together they show a picture of the Sovereign LORD, the Almighty, the King of Israel saying over and over that He is sovereign despite what man does/chooses and despite His deciding to react to man’s decisions.

  4. This is a nice little outline, thanks for posting it. We’re going through Romans in a group at church and this will be good to look at once I get to that chapter. I’ll be recommending your book, too.

  5. Maybe this has already been pointed out, but I think it is helpful to bear in mind that in chapter 9 Paul was addressing the theology of Pharisic Judaism. If someone (a calvinist) is going to argue that Paul is engaging with anything remotely Arminian, they must first show that Pharisaic Judaism is fundamentally homologous with Arminianism. And that is an utterly absurd proposition.

    1. Deborah… the following thoughts might help also… very much in agreement with Leighton.

      Overview of Romans 9
      It would help if the context of Christ-like love for all the lost, demonstrated in Paul from verses 1-3 were recognized before reading the rest. It would also help to note that no verse mentions election before creation in this chapter, but that there is a “seed” that is currently being reckoned (present tense) in verse 6.

      It also would help if it wouldn’t be skipped over so easily that God’s purpose in hardening Pharoah was so that God’s Name would spread over ALL the earth in verse 17. And it would be helpful to read each time the phrases “will have mercy” and “will harden” more fully and literally as He will have mercy/harden with whom He “should” and “wants to” have mercy and harden.

      That should lead the reader to wonder on whom then “should” God have mercy or on whom does God “want” to have mercy. It is easy to discover that He wants His mercy to be on a people who were not His “people” or “beloved” before. This excludes the idea of a loved elect individual person before creation (besides Christ) being read into verses 25-26. But God will have mercy on those on whom He grants His righteousness which they pursued and came to possess through faith (vs 32). In fact He will have some kind of mercy on all (11:32), giving all a sufficient opportunity to hear His call to them to seek Him (10:18).

      The biggest confusion a Calvinist has is in not seeing that God’s sovereign choice of individuals according to Romans 9 was to help fulfill His promise of salvation in Christ, but it did not guarantee their personal salvation or damnation. The prophecy – Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated – did not guarantee the salvation of Jacob or of everyone in Israel, nor did it guarantee the damnation of Esau and of everyone in Edom.

      Here is evidence that Esau later became a believer and that any Edomites were welcome to become believers also.

      Gen 33:4, 10
      But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept….
      “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.
      Deut 23:7-8
      Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.

      Who does Esau remind you of in 33:4? Hint Luke 15:20.

      1. Hi Brian,
        Yes, thanks, I have always loved the account of Esau and Jacob reconciling! And thank you for the comparison of Esau with the prodigal son from the Luke account. Never thought about that!
        Something interesting I have been thinking about: God often chooses the second-born or the younger son for His service. He chose Jacob instead of Esau before they were even born. He chose Joseph, the son of the second wife, instead of any of Leah’s sons. Even Isaac was a kind-of “second-born” son, since Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn. David was the last of all of Jesse’s sons. The prodigal son was the younger son. The pattern exists throughout the Bible. (Able was the second of Adam’s sons, etc.) Why does God do this? I think it is to represent the reality of the First Covenant and the Second Covenant, the contrast between the “ministry of death” and the “ministry of life,” the weakness of the first covenant: the Law, and the eternal strength of the second covenant: the Spirit. And then there is the beautiful analogy of the First Man — Adam, and the Second Man — Jesus. The first man brought death to all men, the second man brought Life to all men.
        I mention this to illustrate that Paul’s point in Romans, when he says, “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated,” has nothing to do with the personal salvation of these two men, and is not meant to support Calvin’s theology. For that matter, God Himself chose Jacob instead of Esau not because of anything remotely related to Calvinistic soteriology, but as a kind of living prophecy pointing to the New Covenant He was going to establish through Christ — righteousness apart from the Law! I would never have seen and understood these things if it hadn’t been for Leighton’s patient labor through this blog to turn the light of understanding on in Romans. I myself have used this passage many times to support Reformed theology. I now see how foolish it was to think this passage was there to support Calvin’s soteriology. I had missed the entire point. I didn’t understand Romans at all.

      2. Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your good insights in such a humble fashion. I am sure they will be a blessing to others when they read them. The choice of the lesser to confound the greater is certainly confirmed throughout Scripture… but so is the idea of the importance of the “firstborn”… I had to say that in case any “firstborns” were feeling left out as seemingly unimportant in God’s economy. ;-).

        It is very encouraging to see how God still worked with Ishmael as well as with Esau, and even reached out with sufficient grace to both, and to Cain, I believe, in offering him sufficient mercy for repentance, which he evidently rejected.

        I was actually the youngest of three boys. I don’t know if there were any important third sons in Scripture… though Seth now comes to mind… and maybe Shem… though probably Ham was the youngest of the three, which isn’t too encouraging! 😉 Thankfully I know that my worth in great in Christ and my calling to serve Him have their own rewards!

  6. Hi Brian,
    Heh heh, yeah, I’m a second-born with an older sister, so maybe I secretly like it that God switches it up? Can’t say I feel sorry if first-borns feel left out, they get all the attention anyway, lol. But you are right, there is a Biblical theme regarding the firstborn. Curious what your insights are on that? I think the idea of the firstborn in the Bible holds a separate meaning from what God is illustrating with switching up the birth orders at times.
    I agree with you, though, it’s heart-warming to see how, when it comes to a personal relationship with Ishmael, Esau, Cain, etc., God clearly loves them deeply and always holds out his hands to them for relationship and salvation, whether temporal or eternal. The accounts of God’s interactions with these men show us that while he rejected them for a specific vocation, in no way did he reject them for a personal relationship with Him! I have heard devout (Calvinist) men speak about Ishmael like he is the plague of history. I know I pointed out one time (being yet a Calvinist myself) that God clearly loved and blessed Ishmael.
    Anyway, Brian, thank you again for being the voice of reason on this website, in so many ways, I always enjoy reading your comments and I confess I skip over everyone else to get to yours at times, lol . . .

  7. Thank you, Deborah of the kind and encouraging words. Yes, “firstborn” is a separate issue… and it’s interesting that it does not have to be a term to mean “first” in time, but “first” in priority instead. Israel is called that, not being the first nation God created… and Ephraim is called that, not being the first son of Joseph (but the second… ;-)) and not the first tribe in Israel either, of course. But Levi was the third son… (like me) lol, and chosen to represent all of Israel!

    Ishmael’s mother was the first recorded post flood theophany… though there were probably others prior… maybe even Job’s. And he was there to bury Abraham with Isaac. The truth seems to have been preserved among the Ishmaelite [who basically merge with or are absorbed by the Midianites it seems] until the time of Moses’ grandfather, a priest of Midian (Ex 2:16, 18:12).

  8. A relative newcomer to the YouTube channel and site, I came looking a sound response after read/skimming this article at the gospel coalition – Romans-9-anticipates-objections-unconditional-election – by Justin Dellehay. Simply reading the last paragraph of Mr. Dillehay’s article made me sick to my stomach; it was aggressive and ungracious and tone-deaf in regard to textual analysis.

    Thanks to Dr. Flowers for presenting and generously sharing such a thorough and straightforward treatment of the text. I look forward to reading a copy of his book.

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