Principle for Bible Reading
In Romans 9, Paul wants to show us why we should believe in God’s unconditional election. Isaac and Ishmael were examples in the previous verses, and now Jacob and Esau are presented as better examples. In this lab, John Piper highlights the similarities and differences between these brothers.
Not Two Mothers, But One (00:52–04:16)
- The father of Isaac and Ishmael is Abraham (Romans 9:7–8). The father of Jacob and Esau is Isaac (Romans 9:10–13).
- Isaac and Ishmael had different mothers (Sarah and Hagar) and Jacob and Esau had the same mother (Rebekah).
- Even though they had the same father and the same mother, God chose the younger over the older. Esau served Jacob. (Romans 9:12–13)
Better Examples of God’s Election (04:16–08:10)
- Some might say Isaac was chosen over Ishmael because his mother was Egyptian. That distinction does not exist between Jacob and Esau. (Romans 9:10)
- Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because they had one mother, and not two. (Romans 9:10)
- Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because they were not yet born when God distinguishes between them. (Romans 9:11)
- Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because neither had done anything to deserve being chosen by God. The distinction was not in their works. (Romans 9:11)
- Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because Esau was older than Jacob, and therefore privileged. (Romans 9:12)
Summary So Far (08:10–10:17)
- The main point is that the word of God — the promises of God — have not failed. (Romans 9:6)
- The first reason is that not everyone descended from Israel belongs to true Israel. (Romans 9:7)
- The true offspring of Abraham are counted or named offspring through faith in the promise. (Romans 9:8)
- Isaac and Ishmael are examples of this reality (Romans 9:7–9), and Jacob and Esau are better examples (Romans 9:10–13).
- Read Romans 9:11–13, and name the similarities and distinctions between Jacob and Esau.
- What makes Jacob and Esau better (more compelling) examples of election than Isaac and Ishmael?
- Summarize Paul’s argument up to this point in Romans 9 for why we should not think that God’s word has failed because so much of Israel has not believed.
‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series
This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.