But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. For this is the statement of the promise:At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. And not only that, but also Rebekah received a promise when she became pregnant by one man, our ancestor Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand — not from works but from the One who calls — she was told:The older will serve the younger. As it is written:I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.
The doctrine of election is mysterious and humbling. The grand majority of the Jewish people did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They believed that if Jesus was truly the Messiah, he would have set up an earthy kingdom on the earth and reestablished a Monarchy of rule. Paul wants to instruct us that the word of God has not failed. He wants to teach us that when the Bible promises that “Israel will be saved,” it is not necessarily referring to those individuals who are physical descendants of Abraham. It is referring to a remnant of the offspring of Isaac who believed by faith in the coming Redeemer.
Then we learn by Old Testament example that God chooses those whom he will save simply because of his own free choice. He tells us that he loved Jacob, but hated Esau. He did this before either of them were born, before they could have done anything good or bad. God’s choice to elect one and not another has nothing to do with whether they are good or bad, white or black, faithful or unfaithful, wise or foolish; it has nothing to do with them whatsoever. This is what is so amazingly humbling. If you are a Christian, it is not because there is anything special in you at all. Matter of fact, God determined that you would believe upon Christ before you were even born. Did you choose to come to Jesus? If you are a Christian, you did indeed; but why did you come? You came because God determined that you would freely choose to come. Mysterious…yep. Humbling…for sure.
Pre-destination and election are doctrines regarding why one person chooses to believe the gospel and another does not. They are doctrines that give us a bit of information that goes on behind the scenes. These doctrines do not contradict that we have a responsibility to repent of our sins and believe upon Jesus Christ alone in order to be saved. The latter tells us what we must do, the former explains to us why we do what we do.