Friday after the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Romans 9:1-23 (NKJV)
1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. 6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 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.
9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (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), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 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.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 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.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.
What a horrible thing Paul begins to say…and yet, you may know the feeling, wishing that some evil might have befallen you rather than a loved one. Paul “could wish”—he “almost wishes”—to be unsaved so that his beloved countrymen would be saved…but he won’t actually go that far. He reckons that God’s will is always best, always displaying His glory and working good for Christ’s Church and he calls upon us to understand things the same way. Not only that, he proves from Scripture that the real Israel never was all of the nation of Israel, nor exclusively the nation of Israel.
Israel in the proper sense, Paul writes, the children of Abraham, consists of all those counted in Isaac and only those counted in Isaac—that is, only those who are born of the promise, who don’t look to sonship according to the flesh, but receive it through faith. While the Muslims claim to be the children of Abraham and the Roman Church officially teaches that they are thus saved (along with the Jewish people who reject Jesus; see: Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 839-847), the Holy Spirit has St. Paul tell us that we are only truly sons of Abraham through Isaac (not Ishmael), through Jacob (not Esau), through the promise in Christ, not through the flesh or its achievements.
The Lord is longsuffering, that His grace may be received and so that in the end His wrath may be seen for the justice it is, as none has a right to eternal life, but have it only by His gracious choice.
O Triune God, grant us both the longing and the wisdom of Paul, that we may desire the salvation of all, yet trust in Your wisdom in Christ Jesus. Amen.