I spent the past week with a friend working through Romans 9:6-13 resulting in some animated discussion back and forth. When the dust settled, we came to an agreement on the outline of the passage and how it would be best communicated. The aspect of the passage that really took hold of us however was how this declaration of sonship concerning God’s children of promise (in contrast to children of flesh) was ultimately located in the sovereign choice of God in election. In verse 11 Paul sums up the example of Rebekah giving birth to the twins Jacob and Esau (and by logical connection the birth of Isaac by Sarah: Οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ Ῥεβέκκα) by stating the purpose of God in his declaration of Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau (in both cases, the choice of the younger son went against accepted cultural practices). Paul declares that God worked these two examples out for an ultimate purpose (the ἵνα with the subjunctive verb μένῃ), declaring,
so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand
(ἵνα ἡ κατʼ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ θεοῦ μένῃ)
Paul has constructed the phrase in such a way as to place the emphasis here on election or choice. The phrase, if read in a wooden manner reads, “in order that according to choice the purpose of God might stand.” We could translate it this way: “in order that God’s purpose of election might stand.”
Yes, God had a reason why Jacob became the child of promise over Esau, even before they were born or they had committed any acts good or bad. What was God’s reason in doing it this way? It was so that his own purpose (πρόθεσις) might be based (κατά) in his “election” or his “choice” (ἐκλογή). God wanted to exercise his own will and insure that his choice or election of who was his child of promise was what ultimately was carried out or “might remain” (μένῃ). In this way, he gets all the credit….we get all the benefits…and he prefers it that way. Do we? Are we content to let him get all the credit for being a child of promise, or do we have a selfish need to steal some of his glory for ourselves?