Romans 9:24-26: Who are the elect people of God?
Controversy seems to dog every step we take when we try and interpret the bible. It seems that every text and truth is shrouded in debate and division. That reality is no less for us as we look at the next section of Romans 9, v24-26, and answer the question, who are the elect people of God? But before we get into it let me give a word of encouragement to those of you who are not accustomed to finding the truth through arguments or who may just be battle weary. Listen to these wise words from John Piper:Controversy seems to dog every step we take when we try and interpret the bible. It seems that every text and truth is shrouded in debate and division. That reality is no less for us as we look at the next section of Romans 9, v24-26, and answer the question, who are the elect people of God? But before we get into it let me give a word of encouragement to those of you who are not accustomed to finding the truth through arguments or who may just be battle weary. Listen to these wise words from John Piper:‘Can controversial teachings nurture Christlikeness? Before you answer this question, ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith. If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy. We need not stay there. We can go home and feast if the day has been well spent. But we must buy there. As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgement on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dream world, there is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks that we can stand alone on that truths that are non-controversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy?’
As we move away from the controversies of election we jump out of the frying pan into the fire as we are faced with texts which speak to us about who the people of God are. In Christianity today there are many fervent people who are hot on this topic. Are the Jews the people of God or is the Church the people of God, or is it both? With the reconstituting of Israel as a state in 1948, the holocaust of WWII, and with the popularising of Dispensational theology that began in the 1830s through popular writers such as Tim La Haye and Hal Lindsay; through radio personalities like Chuck Missler, Harold Camping, John Hagee and others. Many are fixated on this question, and there are many who believe that the Church is not the planned people of God but the Jews are. God’s OT plan was not a people of all nations, but Israel as the ruling nation on earth with Jerusalem as the capital city, Christ reigning literally on the earth, and since this did not all come to pass in Christ’s first coming, there must be a future 1000 reign on earth where all the prophecies that speak of Jerusalem and Ezekiel’s temple and reinstituted sacrifices, etc., can be fulfilled. Some have gone so far as to say that there are parts of Jesus teaching that are not for the church but only for the Jews. Today we will see that the apostle Paul read the OT very differently to the popular reading of the OT by these scholars. We love them as Christian brothers and sisters but I feel we must speak up because the glorious work of God in the church is being side-lined for a nationalised theocratic divisive understanding of God’s plan to save His people.
Now I am aware that these famous people have already prejudiced many of you against the case that I want to present to you so let me respond and settle your fears. I am not teaching anti-semitism, nor teaching that encourages or endorses it. I am not teaching what some have called, ‘Replacement Theology’ for the bible does not teach that the church replaces Israel but rather, Israel is expanded to include the Gentiles, if we want a name you can call it ‘expansionist theology.’ Another wrong designation is ‘supersessionism’ this view thinks that we teach that the church supersedes the nation of Israel, this however does not see the continuation that we see as Israel does not cease to exist or get surpassed but experiences transformation. One author has compared the people of God in the OT that was made up of only Jews, and the people of God in the NT that is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles to the caterpillar and the butterfly. It is not a different caterpillar – just a grown up one.
Here is our text Romans 9:24-26, ‘even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'”26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'”
Paul has been silencing our objections to His sovereignty in election by asking unanswerable questions that show God is having grace upon sinners for the glory of His name. We have seen how the grace of God saves ‘even us’ how the working of God is by grace in calling us, now we want to examine the extent of His grace in calling not only Jews, which is the present discussion of chapter 9, but now also the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God. We are wanting to defend this point, that there is only one people of God not two, a people made up of believers from both Jews and Gentiles. We will consider firstly, the reality of Gentile inclusion and then the wonder and cost of Gentile inclusion.