I am telling you the truth as a Christian man--it is no falsehood, for my conscience enlightened, as it is, by the Holy Spirit adds its testimony to mine--
when I declare that I have deep grief and unceasing anguish of heart.
For I could pray to be accursed from Christ on behalf of my brethren, my human kinsfolk--for such the Israelites are.
To them belongs recognition as God's sons, and they have His glorious Presence and the Covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the Temple service, and the ancient Promises.
To them the Patriarchs belong, and from them in respect of His human lineage came the Christ, who is exalted above all, God blessed throughout the Ages. Amen.
Not however that God's word has failed; for all who have sprung from Israel do not count as Israel,
nor because they are Abraham's true children. But the promise was 'Through Isaac shall your posterity be reckoned.'
In other words, it is not the children by natural descent who count as God's children, but the children made such by the promise are regarded as Abraham's posterity.
For the words are the language of promise and run thus, 'About this time next year I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.'
Nor is that all: later on there was Rebecca too. She was soon to bear two children to her husband, our forefather Isaac--
and even then, though they were not then born and had not done anything either good or evil, yet in order that God's electing purpose might not be frustrated, based, as it was, not on their actions but on the will of Him who called them, she was told,
'The elder of them will be bondservant to the younger.'
This agrees with the other Scripture which says, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.'
What then are we to infer? That there is injustice in God?
No, indeed; the solution is found in His words to Moses, 'Wherever I show mercy it shall be nothing but mercy, and wherever I show compassion it shall be simply compassion.'
And from this we learn that everything is dependent not on man's will or endeavour, but upon God who has mercy. For the Scripture said to Pharaoh,
'It is for this very purpose that I have lifted you so high--that I may make manifest in you My power, and that My name may be proclaimed far and wide in all the earth.'
This is a proof that wherever He chooses He shows mercy, and wherever he chooses He hardens the heart.
'Why then does God still find fault?' you will ask; 'for who is resisting His will?'
Nay, but who are you, a mere man, that you should cavil against GOD? Shall the thing moulded say to him who moulded it, 'Why have you made me thus?'
Or has not the potter rightful power over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel for more honourable and another for less honourable uses?
And what if God, while choosing to make manifest the terrors of His anger and to show what is possible with Him, has yet borne with long-forbearing patience with the subjects of His anger who stand ready for destruction,
in order to make known His infinite goodness towards the subjects of His mercy whom He has prepared beforehand for glory,
even towards us whom He has called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?
So also in Hosea He says, 'I will call that nation My People which was not My People, and I will call her beloved who was not beloved.
And in the place where it was said to them, 'No people of Mine are you,' there shall they be called sons of the everliving God.'
And Isaiah cries aloud concerning Israel, 'Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sands of the sea, only a remnant of them shall be saved;
for the Lord will hold a reckoning upon the earth, making it efficacious and brief.'
Even as Isaiah says in an earlier place, 'Were it not that the Lord, the God of Hosts, had left us some few descendants, we should have become like Sodom, and have come to resemble Gomorrah.'
To what conclusion does this bring us? Why, that the Gentiles, who were not in pursuit of righteousness, have overtaken it--a righteousness, however, which arises from faith;
while the descendants of Israel, who were in pursuit of a Law that could give righteousness, have not arrived at one.
And why? Because they were pursuing a righteousness which should arise not from faith, but from what they regarded as merit. They stuck their foot against the stone which lay in their way;
in agreement with the statement of Scripture, 'See, I am placing on Mount Zion a stone for people to stumble at, and a rock for them to trip over, and yet he whose faith rests upon it shall never have reason to feel ashamed.'