Romans 9:6-9 6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

What does Paul mean by Christians being the children of the promise, being called like Isaac?

  • Compare with Galatians 4:21-31.
    – Perry Webb
    Feb 28, 2018 at 21:36

8 Answers 8


Paul is arguing that "fleshly" descent from Abraham does not in itself make one of Israel. Not only, however, does this apply to Christians, but even to the Jews themselves.

Normally we think of similar arguments he makes in the context of Christians being able to call themselves of Israel even if they are not genetically descended from Abraham. For example:

Galatians 3:26, 29

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

But here, in Romans 9:6ff, Paul is explaining that this even applies to the Jews themselves. Not all children of Abraham's flesh can be called Jews: the children of the bondwoman and Keturah, for example, are not considered to be part of Israel (Genesis 16:15; 25:1-4). These are not the children of God, writes Paul; it is, rather, the children of the promise (i.e. the promise that in Isaac shall thy seed be called) that are counted for the seed.

A modern commentary on this particular passage in Romans explains:

Concerned about what may be inferred from his lament [v.1-5], his anguish over Israel's rejection of the promised Savior, the Apostle hastens to declare that there has been no failure; God's promises have indeed been effective and do remain: this word has not failed. Some Jews have believed, and what is more, some Gentiles, too. These believers constitute the real Israel. Not all of those who are biological descendants of Abraham deserve the name - only those who have put their faith in Christ and are thus "a new creature", "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16)

Not all the fleshly sons of Abraham are his children, "his seed"; take, for example, the children of the bondwoman and Keturah, whom he had married after Sarah's death (Genesis 16:15; 25:1-4). But, as the Apostle reminds us, it was "in Isaac" that Abraham's "seed should be called" (Genesis 21:12; Hebrews 11:18). This does not mean, however, that fleshly descent from Isaac is the guarantee of being "counted for the seed" [cf. Galatians 3:26,29].

This new understanding of "the seed" had been foretold by the Psalmist, when he put these words in the mouth of the Man, the Anointed or Christ: "But I have been appointed king by Him on Zion His holy mountain ... The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations [LXX: τὰ ἔθνη, "the Gentiles"] for thine inheritance" [Psalm 2:6-8].*

* Dmitry Royster, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2008), pp.234-235.


If you compare this passage with Galatians 4:21-31, Paul wrote that Ismael was the son of human effort or works (keeping the law), while Isaac was the promised son, God's miracle, signifying grace. Thus, the son of promise means the church is the son of God's grace, not of human effort and human action.


The answer to this question depends a great deal on a persons theological and hermeneutical methodology.

Typically those who approach the text from the perspective of covenant theology would apply this text to Christians as they typically are also proponents of replacement theology--the idea that Israel has been replaced by the church as the "true Israel."

On the other hand there are those who approach the text from a more consistently literal hermeneutic, namely, a dispensational hermeneutic. Using a dispensational hermeneutic here is what is being discussed in the open verses of Romans 9.

At the end of Romans 8, Paul declares the great position believers have in Christ, the idea that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of Christ. Since Romans is written using the rhetoric of a Greek diatribe, Paul in Romans 9 is cutting off the doubter who might think, well what about Israel. If they were separated from God, how can you say that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Paul argues in 9:6-32 that it was not the physical descendants of Jacob who were blessed and called of God. True Israel were the elect who had exercised faith in God (V 32) and as the elect they had been chosen by God. I would argue that most of the passage is talking about Israel in the past (especially Vs. 6-9). The intent was to reassure the Romans that God had cared for the true Israel and as a result your faith is secure in Christ as well.

Christians are in view in V24:

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

The even us means that we are also the vessels of mercy just as the true Israelites were the vessels of God's mercy.

This is based on a hermeneutic that may not be that popular on this site but it is the one this author uses in his approach to the Scriptures.


In Ephesians 3:5-6, Paul elaborates on the dispensation of the grace of God given him toward the Gentiles, "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;"

That mystery is this: "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"

There are many other verses which expound on this mystery (see circumcision), but I'll leave you with one more:

Romans 2:28-29 - For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

In other words, just because you were born into the physical family of Abraham, doesn't guarantee you the inheritance, much like today: being born into a Christian home doesn't make you Christian. It is up to the individual to accept Christ as Saviour for themselves, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." (Gal 5:6), and thus be placed into the family of God as children of the promise (cf. Jn 1:12).


Strong's Exhaustive Concordance shows (pgs. 58 and 120 of hebrew dictionary, 3327 and 6711) that the etymology of Isaac, with Yitzak, indicates not just laughter.

Mocking scorn is what is indicated with the Hebrew roots for Isaac.

The gruesome crucifixion of Jesus Christ is to atone for all of the mocking scorn of the human heart.

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    – Dottard
    Feb 10, 2021 at 8:23

The Jews who accepted that Jesus was the Messiah continued to walk in their faith with God. Anyone who denied Jesus was cut off from the promises of God (Romans 11:18-23). The Gentiles who trust in Jesus get to become part of Israel (Romans 11:23); they are grafted in. This is not about replacement theology. The Church did not replace Israel. The Church is the continuation of the promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). The Church existed before the Gospel went to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16).

The Apostle Paul and every Jewish Christian do not get special privileges of land that Gentiles who trusted in Jesus do not get (Galatians 3:28-29). There will however be rewards for service towards God in this life. (Luke 19:17-19)

In fact, everything in existence including the land of Israel will belong to those who trust in Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:22-23). Anyone who denies Jesus as the Son of God is condemned (John 3:18). One is not a Jew according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 2:28-29).

Jesus will come back one day and turn ungodliness away from Jacob and at that point, there will be a certain number of Jews that will receive a Spirit of Grace when they look upon the one they have pierced. (Isaiah 59:20-21; Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26) These people will inherit eternal life because God chooses specific Jews to pour his Spirit on. But these Jews will become part of Israel because they will receive his Spirit and become just as many heirs to eternal life as much as Paul Mark Luke and John have.

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    – agarza
    Nov 18, 2023 at 4:16

Children of Promise In Genesis God promised a son to Abraham. Yet Abraham had many sons; so which one was "the son of promise"? (Gen. 25:1-6) It is clear from the narrative that Isaac is the one.

Paul is merely using this story figuratively to show what other early Christian disciples taught: DNA alone (gene pool of Abraham) does not mean Jews are accepted by God in His plan of redemption. Only those approved by God are His spiritual children.

Jesus came to those who were His own (nationality), but His own did not receive Him.
Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God---children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)

Paul used this exclusivity requirement in another epistle of His figuratively:

It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but the son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants...
Now you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (Galatians 4:22-28)

The Apostle Paul is just using figures of speech to show that only those who believe the Gospel of Grace are redeemed, and children of God. Those who wish to observe the rites and regulations of the Mosaic Law as a way to be accepted by God, are on a fool's errand. By the works of the flesh no man can be justified.

The Law was instituted as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ*. But now that Christ has provided a way to heaven by His sacrificial death (Lamb of God), no other way is needed...or accepted. (Gal. 3:24) The Law and the Prophets were until John. Since that time, the Good News of the Kingdom of God is evangelized (Luke 16:16)

Isaac represents the disciples of Christ in all countries who accept Jesus and put faith in Him alone for salvation. Thus fulfilling the promise to Abraham that through His Seed, not just the Jewish race, but the whole world would be blessed! All the nations come to a saving knowledge by grace. (ethnics, Gk.)

Addendum Some are concerned about what skeptics call the Replacement Theory. As if some teach that the Jewish way of life has been set side for a different ethnic one.

It is true that God Himself has instituted a New Covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:7-13) The old one is obsolete. The sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law have been discontinued because of the Lamb of God's eternal sacrifice. The office of the Aaronic high priest is no longer in effect because of Jesus in the order of the Melchizedek priesthood. (Hebrews 7)

All these have definitely been replaced. And importantly, being chosen people simply because of Semitic DNA in one's gene pool, is no longer true---if ever it was, because God has always required a circumcised heart. But, having recognized this, it is also true that a person of Jewish birth is most welcome into the community of believers with joy, realizing that much of the Old was type and shadows of the New, in which he now belongs with a greater spiritual meaning and reality!

The modern Church is NOT a Gentile replacement; it is the amalgamation of sin-freed ethnics bonded together with sin-freed Jews! One New Body (Man), neither characterized as Gentile, nor as Jewish...but as blood-washed, born-again, heaven-bound, saints of God!


Isaac was not Abraham's first born son, but he was the son of which the promise would come through. This is true over and over in scripture.

Let's take Adam as an example.

  1. Adam is the 1st born "Son of Man".

  2. Adam was given the LAW (it was one law, but the LAW none the less).

  3. Adam was given stewardship of the garden.

  4. Adam was tested. In the MIDST of the garden were two trees, The Tree of Life, and The Tree of Death, and God told Adam essentially, don't choose Death. He failed, and chose death.

In 1 Cor 15:45 Paul compares Jesus to the son of promise the second Adam. Jesus choose The Tree of Life every time.

Now let's take Israel as an example:

  1. Israel is God's 1st born "Son of Nations" (Ex 2:22).

  2. Israel was given the LAW.

  3. Israel was given stewardship of the Promise Land.

  4. Israel was tested 3 times in the wilderness and failed all 3 times.

  5. And in Deuteronomy 30:19 God said "...I have set before you (Israel) life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life..." This time God gives his son the answer, but you guessed it Israel chose death.

Now fast forward to Jesus, and he is tested 3 times and He he chose Life every time. The "son of promise" is the one who chooses life, or faith in God.

Jesus is the second Adam, the son of promise, who redeems man. Israel on the other hand is God's first born son of nations, but the church is the son of promise, a holy nation unto God (1st Peter 2:9).

  • Interesting , I like the information you said about Adam and Israel compared to Christ. But I don't see how this is what Paul meant.
    – diego b
    Feb 28, 2018 at 22:50
  • Where is Adam called the son of man? Adam=man so he is not the son of himself. Luke calls him the son of God , not son of man. Also where did you get "son of the nations" from Exodus 2 22?
    – diego b
    Feb 28, 2018 at 23:39
  • When you say son of man, your literally saying son of Adam. Adam is Hebrew for man. So your saying Adam is the son of adam. No where in the scriptures is Adam referred to as the son of man. Christ is the son of man /adam because he is a descendant of adam.
    – diego b
    Mar 1, 2018 at 0:47
  • Adam isn't called "son of man" but it's logical. He is a direct creation of God, hence son, and he is Man. I.e. God's son of man. Other times in the Bible "son of man" is used for someone other then Jesus. Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end [shall be] the vision. (Daniel 8:15-17). The whole book of Ezekiel "son of man" is used for Ezekiel. Mar 1, 2018 at 0:49
  • I'm sorry diego b, I didn't make it clear. Jesus is the second Adam, the son of promise, who redeems man. Israel is the first born son of nations, but the church is the son of promise, a holy nation unto God (1st Peter 2:9) Mar 1, 2018 at 1:04

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