It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Paul had a major struggle dealing with Jewish Christians who did not understand their own faith and understood Christianity even less. But Paul is never shy in setting the record straight. In this particular passage Paul is addressing people who believed that being the offspring of Abraham make them safe from God’s wrath. However, Paul points out that not all of Abraham’s children were part of the promise, only the offspring of Isaac. Paul also points out that God had chosen Jacob over Esau before they were even born. Thus, there is no way to be part of the promise by birth or by works. Just by faith alone.
We will never be good enough or special enough to actually deserve our own salvation. It is only by the grace and mercy of God that we are part of the promise. It is only by grace we are able to call ourselves children of God. If we are attempting to earn our way into heaven then we are going to be disappointed. James, the brother of Jesus, called faith without works, dead. Likewise, works without faith is just as useless. We must have faith in Jesus Christ as well as produce the good fruit we are called to produce.
[Featured image by Matthias Stom, titled, “Esau and Jacob”]