Paul has been expounding on the doctrine of righteousness through the mercy and grace of God toward all men regardless of their being Jew or Gentile. Paul reduced all men, regardless of race, to lost sinners separated from God.
For the next three chapters, 9-11, Paul will lay that doctrine aside, and explain Godfs dealing with Israel. Admittedly, these three chapters are the subject of a great amount of debate, and I am about to get in over my head.
It is from this section of Scripture that the following false idea has been developed, as expressed by Newell (1868-1956):
When we reflect that, after He has "caught up in the clouds" His Church saints, our Lord is coming back to this earthly people Israel, and will establish them in their land, with a glorious millennial temple and order of worship, to which the Gentile nations must and will submit: then we see that the present time is altogether anomalous! It is a parenthesis, in which God is making a "visit" to the Gentiles, to "take out of them a people for His name"; --after which, James tells us, our Lord "will Himself return," and "build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen" (# Ac 15:16), on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, where David lived.
Obviously, his commentary is popular among dispensationalists.
The context up to this point has been Paul's confrontation of the Jewish idea that being an Jew, and following the laws (as misunderstood by the Jewish religious leaders), rites and rituals of that religion, was one's assurance of heaven. The Jews considered themselves a special people at the exclusion of all others, because of the past promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.
What must Paul deal with:
Paul has spent eight chapters telling how that, to God, there is no difference between Jews and heathen, for they are all equally guilty before God. Paul has made it clear that the only way to salvation is through faith in Christ, and that faith a gift of God to the unbeliever.
The first eight chapters presented an unavoidable question to the Jews. What about all the promises God made to Israel of old? Will they come to pass? Does national Israel still have a special place in God's plan? (De Koning)
If we will keep the above context in mind, the next three chapters are not difficult at all. The difficulty comes when one tries to make these chapters support Newell's dispensational theory as quoted above.
Here is an outline of chapter 9:
First, vv. 1-5, Paul professes his undying love and sorrow for the Jewish nation, after the flesh.
Second, vv. 6-13, Paul proves from established Old Testament Scripture that the promise to Abraham did not necessarily include all his descendants. He points out that the doctrine of election he is about to develop is not new with him. Rather, it has been at work since the beginning of the Hebrew's race.
Third, vv. 14-18, Paul asserts that there is no unrighteousness in God's bestowing his unmerited favor on whomsoever he pleases.
Fourth, vv. 19-24, Paul further asserts that God was and is unquestionably free to suspend his judgments and wrath according to his sovereign purpose. His power is displayed by taking vengeance on some, or mercy on others. It is all for his glory, and the creature cannot question the Creator with "What doest thou?"
Fifth, vv. 26-29, Paul quotes Scripture to show that the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews is not a new idea. It was foretold by Esaias.
Sixth, vv. 30, 31, Paul continues to develop what he has already established. That is, the Gentiles have attained the righteousness of faith, which the Jews refused.
Seventh, vv. 32, 33, Paul gives the cause of the Jew's
Paul has shown that the gospel was God's power of salvatin, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
But the Jews as a nation rejected Christ, so God rejected their nation. Paul is speaking at a time very near to the time of the total destruction of the Jewish nation, as prophesied by our Lord in Matthew 23, 24. At that time, the Jews will lose their land forever. However, in response to the warning of the coming destruction, the Jews fled back to the everlasting covenant God made with the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even of the everlasting Kingdom of God to be ruled by the Son of David.
There total expectation was for all of these promises to take place literally, regardless of their attitude toward the Father, and his Son, the true Messiah, Christ.
So the question Paul is answering is, Has God broken his promises? If Christ was the true Messiah, as taught by Paul, and he was rejected by the Jewish nation, and the destruction of the nation is at hand, then has not God broken his promises?
Their misplaced confidence in the promises of God to the Old Testament saints led the Jews to a very serious false assurance.
Observe: A profession of faith has been made, which leads to a false assurance that heaven in our home, regardless of our actions. Paul has spent 8 chapters dealing with that foolish idea.
We can sum up Paul's answers to the Jews' objections:
First, the promise was not made to all the fleshly seed of Abraham; rather, it was made to the seed of promise, Isaac, and then Jacob.
Second, God in his sovereignty has the right to choose a race or pass a race by according to his own will.
Third, the subject of individual and personal election is not being discussed here. Rather, it is the election of the Jewish nation as the chosen people, their rejection, and God's choice of the Gentiles. Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob are used as representatives of the two races. (PNTN)
Now, let us look at the chapter:
First, Romans 9:1-5 Paul professes his deep sorrow and love for the Jewish nation; his nation after the flesh.
Vv. 1-5. Paul is going to say some very hard things to and about the Jews. So as usual before he starts with hard truths, he starts on a positive note. He swears his love toward his people after the flesh. He opens with a triple oath.
1. Truth in Christ
2. I lie not
3. My conscience is witness in the Holy Ghost.
He swears his great heaviness, unceasing sorrow, pain and consuming grief of heart over the fact that the Jews rejected Christ as their Messiah. Christ himself did the same in Matthew 23:37:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
But notice that Christ's great heaviness, sorrow, pain and grief did not prevent that destruction, nor did Paul's heaviness, sorrow, pain and grief prevent him from telling the truth of the cutting off of the "Jews after the flesh".
With this kind of genuine love for his brethren after the flesh, imagine the pain with which he wrote the next three chapters.
Great heaviness, sorrow and compassion many times can cause us to overlook someonefs sin. However, we must not be influence in doing the right thing toward them, and the right thing is defined by Godfs word.
V. 3, continuing his profession of love for his brethren, he makes a bold statement which I doubt any of us could say:
That is, he wished that he could be separated from Christ in their place. We only have two men in Scripture who have said this:
Exodus 32:32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
Both had God as their witness that they meant just what they said. But they were both sinners, and it was impossible for them to be the subsitute for their people. But we do see in these men that their burning love for their people was not a matter of words, for words are easily said. Both Moses and Paul showed by their lives that they were willing to give themselves totally to for Godfs people. They both sacrificed themselves for those they professed love toward.
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Christ was separated from the Father in the place for those he loved.
V. 4. In calling them Israelites, Paul reminds them of the covenant made back in Genesis 32:28:
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Paul then summarizes the eight privileges God gave to them. These eight things will also remind them of what they turned their backs on when the rejected Christ.
1. The adoption. God had adopted these people as a son. There is an adage that says, "A good son is like his father." God wanted these people to be like Him. This would have been joy to His heart.
2. The glory. God's glory lived in the pillar of cloud with His people. With it, He protected them and led them through the wilderness.
3. The covenants. Plural because of the several made and renewed. I will only mention two:
First, God's unconditional covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. In it, God obligated Himself to bless Abraham, and his heirs. It was a covenant without conditions on Abraham's side, and was renewed in Genesis 15:4-6.
Second, God's conditional covenant with the people of Israel made near Mount Sinai:
Exodus 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
With this covenant, the people obligated themselves to meet certain conditions. If they obeyed, they would reap God's blessing; if they disobeyed, they would reap God's curse. Deuteronomy 27-28.
Of course, the Jews to whom Paul spoke clung to the first covenant of blessing given to Abraham, but totally ignored the second covenant made at the Mount, with its curses for violating the covenant.
Professed Christians revel in the promised blessings of salvation, but most totally ignore the curses that go with violating the agreement to follow him as our Lord and Master according to his law-word after salvation. Then like the Jews with whom Paul is dealing with, we develop a false confidence, and wonder why the blessings turn into curses.
4. The giving of the law. It was through his chosen people that God revealed his righteousness to the world in his law. His righteous laws will make life as comfortable as possible for his people.
5. The service. God gave the instructions as to how to worship him in the only manner acceptable to him. Of course, that service pointed to Christ, who came through the Jewish nation. He is now the only acceptable service to the Father.
Matthew 28:19, 20, Christ commanded his people to take the message of the only acceptable way to serve the Father to the world at large; that is, that no man can come to the Father except through the Son.
6. The promises. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about the blessings He was going to give them. Paul will point out that all those promises pointed to Christ.
7. The fathers. Well known men of the covenants and promises to whom God revealed himself personally: Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, &c.
8. The Christ, who according to the flesh, came through the Jews, the greatest privilege of all. Then he reminds them of the dual nature of Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
Christ was not just another man of Jewish decent. He was the Diving Man, the God-Man who was exalted over all creation. He is the center of everything forever.
In his usual manner, Paul compliments those to whom he is going to say hard words. So before Paul starts dealing with his subject of election, he has expressed his love to his fellow brethren, and has exalted them with these eight points.
He puts a sweetness with his hard words as he starts dealing with the issue at hand, election.
II. Vv. 6-13, Paul proves from history as recorded in Scripture, that the promise to Abraham did not include all of Abraham's descendants. He points out that his doctrine of election is not new with him, but has been at work since the beginning of the Jew's race.
V. 6. The Geneva note introduces this section:
(3) He enters into the handling of predestination, by means of presenting an objection: How may it be that Israel is cast off, and that in addition we must also make the covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed, frustrated and void? He answers therefore that God's word is true, although Israel is cast off: for the election of the people of Israel is so general and common, that nonetheless the same God chooses by his secret council those as it pleases him. So then this is the proposition and state of this treatise: the grace of salvation is offered generally in such a way, that in spite of how it is offered, the efficacy of it pertains only to the elect. (h) Israel in the first place, is taken for Jacob: and in the second, for the Israelites.
National Israel's confidence was in Abraham's promise, not in the Messiah of the promise:
Many times one's confidence is in a profession or in a prayer, or some other act, rather than confidence in the work of Christ in the place of the sinner.
V. 7. It was ever in the mind of the Israelites that because they were the seed of Abraham, they were the heirs:
John 8:33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were
never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made
John 8:37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
"We are Abraham's seed, and now you are saying that we are cast off from being God's chosen people? Is God's promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Israel, and their seed now void?" Paul addresses there misplaced confidence by saying that the promise was never by physical birth, but by faith.
So from the very first promise, there has been two people of the promise---the physical Israel and the spiritual Israel, or the Israel by faith. Anyone could become a Israelite by faith, as shown by Rahab.
Romans 2:28, 29, Paul has already shown that some are Israel by their physical birth, but the true Israelite is by the faith of Abraham. That is, those who trust God and walk in the steps of Abraham are the true heirs of the promise.
Paul reminds them of their national history to prove his words that not all Israel is of Israel. Abraham had two sons. The first born was Ishmael , who was born according to the flesh. The second born was Isaac, who was born according to the promise made to Abraham and Sarah.
Though Ishmael was of the natural seed of Abraham, he was cast out in accord to God's word:
Genesis 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Paul develops the casting out of Ishmael in Galatians 4, which we covered in Galatians. That study is posted.
The promise went only to Isaac, and not to both sons. Though the sons were before the nation of Israel came into being, Israel traced its claim to the promise of Abraham back through Isaac, not through Ishmael.
The Arabs trace their claim on the promise to Abraham through Ishmael.
Isaac is a type of Abraham's spiritual seed, who are born not of the power of nature, but according to the promise of God.
V. 8. Paul speaks more plainly. He tells them that though being a physical descendant of Abraham makes them of the seed of Abraham, that does not make one a child of God. Adoption as a child of God is not according to blood, but according to the purpose of God according to election, v. 11.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Man cannot work up saving faith. Saving faith is a supernatural work, and that faith must be given by God. He provides saving faith according to his own purpose and glory, and Paul is saying here that man cannot question God as to why he gives that faith so some, and not to others.
V. 14, is God unrighteous because he does not give saving faith to all? Of course not.
Not everyone born as descendant of Abraham is a Jew, for it is through Isaac the Israelite nation got its identity. In the same way, not everyone born of Abraham is counted as the seed of Abraham and heir to the promise given to Abraham. Such heirship is through the new birth, the faith of Abraham.
V. 9. Paul continues his history lesson, pointing out that Isaac's birth was supernatural, and could only be according to the power of God, and his promise to Sara,
Genesis 18:9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
Though there were two sons, only one was the result of the promise to Abraham of a son. Paul uses the supernatural birth of Isaac vs the natural birth of Ishmael to make his point that not all sons of Abraham are adopted as sons of God.
The new birth, and thus become a son of God can only be by the supernatural power of God.
Not everyone who said "Lord, Lord" and who does many wonderful works in the name of the Lord will enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who have had the required supernatural faith given by God to believe unto righteousness will enter into his kingdom. That faith will result in genuine conversion, which loves to do the will of the Father as revealed in the Son, the Word of God. Matthew 7:21.
Note also v. 9. Not every woman who desires a child will have one. God is the one who decides who will have a child and who will not.
In Luke 4:25-30, Christ himself preached election with the illustration of the widow of Sarepta, a city of Sidon, and the leper, Naaman the Syrian. His message on election created such wrath that all those religious leaders in the synagoge sought to kill him by throwing him off a cliff.
Observe: Christ's message on election creates great wrath among most religious leaders of our day. Their anger seems strong enought that they also would seek his death. They do seek the destruction of the Word of God when it does not fit within their system of faith.
1 Peter 3:6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
As we have seen, the Jews considered themselves the superior race, exalted by God over all the other peoples of the world. But Paul reduced all men to equal footing as sinners before God, regardless of their social, religious or race status. By doing this, the Jews raised some objections:
First question: If we are no better than the Gentiles, then are not God's promises to the fathers void?
Second question: What advantage is it of being a Jew?
Paul takes a break from developing the doctrine of salvation in chapters 9-11 to answer the Jews' objections.
First, vv. 1-5, Paul starts by professing his undying love and sorrow for the Jewish nation, after the flesh.
Second, vv. 6-13, Paul proves from established Old Testament Scripture that the promise to Abraham did not necessarily include all his descendant. He points out that the doctrine of election he is about to develop is not new with him. Rather, it has been at work since the beginning of the Hebrewfs race.
Third, vv. 14-18, Paul says that God is not at all unrighteous by bestowing his unmerited favor on whomsoever he pleases, regardless of birth.
Fourth, vv. 19-25, Paul further asserts that God was and is free to suspend his judgments and wrath according to his sovereign purpose. His power is displayed by taking vengeance on some, or mercy on others. It is all for his glory, and the creature cannot question the Creator with gWhat doest thou?h
Fifth, vv. 26-29, Paul quotes Esaias to show that the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews is not a new idea.
Sixth, vv. 30, 31, Paul continues to develop what he has already established. That is, the Gentiles have attained the righteousness of faith, which the Jews refused.
Seventh, vv. 32, 33, Paul gives the cause of the Jewfs
Paul starts his line of reasoning with Abrahamfs seed, Ishmael and Isaac. Though both were of the physical seed of Abraham, Ishmael was a child of the flesh, which Isaac was a child of the promise.
In v. 10, Paul moves on to the next generation, Isaac and Rebecca.
There might have been an argument about Ishmael and Isaac, for they had different mothers. However, there could be no argument here, for both had the same mother, and the choosing of one over the other was before either had done good or bad.
Thus Paul proves that the promise does not belong to all who are born of the seed of Abraham, nor does it belong to works of any kind, nor social status. It belongs only to those of God's own choosing.
V. 11 is quite clear: election, or the supernatural calling of some out of their sins, and leaving of others in their sins is according to the purpose of Godthat is, for his glory alone. Election cannot be reduced to a level of man's understanding, so many reject it all together.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
Using the sons of Abraham and the sons of Isaac, Paul proves that God alone is the one who chooses who to adopt as his sons, and who to reject. And his choice in not based on works nor actions of any kind. The sons here were twins, exactly the same in the womb, so God's election could not be based on anything they had done.
There are those who speak of the foreknowledge of God. That is, God knew what kind of men each son would be, so he chose according to that knowledge.
But that objection is answered here in v. 11. The choice was made not according to the purpose of man, but that the purpose of God might stand.
That is, the choice was made according to the good pleasure of God's will, and for no other reason.
2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Romans 9:12, when Rebecca questioned the Lord, Genesis 25:23, records the Lord's answer: Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
We saw from 2 Timothy 1:9, that this determination was made before the world began.
Two manner of people, with the elder serving the younger is a picture of the old nature with which we all are born, and that gives us such troublethat old nature is to serve the new nature, placed there by the Spirit of God.
V. 13, Paul is not presenting anything new, or the Jews would have refused to listen to him. Rather he quotes Scripture at every point to show he is only expounding on doctrines already established:
Malachi 1:2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacobfs brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
V. 13, hated. What can we say here? It is a statement that has created great controversy. Here is the best way it fits for me:
Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Hatred there is not intense hatred as we think of it; that is, detesting our parents, and even hoping for and praying for the death of the hated one, such as David's hatred toward the workers of evil.
Hatred in Luke 14:25, as well as in Romans 9:13, is to love someone less than another. We are to love even our parents less than we love the Lord, so we choose the Lord over our loved ones.
V. 13, Paul has shown from Scripture that election of one individual over another is not based upon actions, but upon the everlasting purpose of God.
Paul has professed his undying love for the Jewish nation, but he does not let that love hinder his truth to that nation. He is firm: the Abrahamic promise was not by flesh but by faith.
Now, the third section, vv. 14-18.
Paul insists that there is no trace of unrighteousness in God's bestowing his unmerited mercy on whomsoever he pleases.
Note the obvious theme of this section, vv. 15, 18. That is, mercy and compassion according to God's own purpose:
V. 14, now Paul deals with the objection we hear so much today: "If God elects some to glory, and rejects others even from the same family and each in the same situation, then he is unjust and partial."
These people rail against God and the doctrine of Election, accusing him of being unrighteous. They try to reduce salvation to, "Well, one decided to accept God, and the other didn't."
In this foolish saying, they ignore John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Paul's answers the objection to God's calling of some over others in vv. 15-17. Election is not unjust to anyone. It is impossible for God to be unjust.
Notice that in our "modern world", there are few sins as bad as choosing one over another. If an employee does a better job, and the boss wants to pay him more, then there is a terrible commotion raised, even law suits. There can be not difference.
V. 15. Paul counters the wicked argument that God is unjust with another quote:
Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Paul tells us that if God shows mercy to some, and not to others, he cannot be accused of injustice. He has injured no one, nor is he obliged nor indebted to any of his creation.
V. 16. Paul refers back to Jacob's election in the womb. God's choice was not influenced by any good desires, inclinations nor deeds on Jacob's part. Nor was his election based on God's foresight that Jacob would be a good person. In fact, Jacob was a trickster.
Jacob's election was based totally on God's mercy and good pleasure. But remember Jacob's story. It was not until Jacob met the Lord the night before he was to meed his brother that he submitted totally to the Lord.
V. 17. Paul again quotes the Old Testament:
Exodus 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
Paul uses scripture to answer those who are upset over the doctrine of the election of some and the rejection of others.
I personally think rejection is too strong of a term. I believe ignoring would be better. That is, God has decided to call some out of their bondage to sin, and in that decision, he has left others alone in their sin. Many are happy in their sin, and some are miserable. God may use their misery to call them to himself, while he may leave others in their misery.
From the Jews' own national history, he reminds them of the hardness of Pharaoh against God's people. He tells them that their suffering at the hands of an evil king was for only one purpose---that was, to show the power and glory of God throughout the whole earth.
Paul uses the situation with Pharaoh to show that it is not unjust of God to leave some in their sins, while calling others out of their sin. It is all for His own glory.
Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
V. 15, Paul opens his argument with mercy and compassion according to God's purpose. And v. 18, he sums up his argument with mercy and hardening according to God's sovereign purpose.
V. 16, Godfs choosing has nothing to do with anything on manfs part, nor with any kind of foresight on Godfs part. It is only according to Godfs mercy and good pleasure. This verse alone should be the death blow to those who seek to reduce God to their level.
V. 17. What about Pharaoh? For we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart:
Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. 32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. 9:34
Then we are told that the Lord hardened his heart:
Exodus 7:13 And he hardened Pharaohfs heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. Exodus 9:12, Exodus 10:1, 20, 27, 14:8.
There are at least four ways God is said to harden sinners:
1. By forsaking them, as the sun forsakes the earth at night. Where we are in the mountains, when the sun sets, the temperature may drop 20 degrees very quickly. Such is the hardness that descends upon the sinner when Godfs softening influence is withheld.
2. By punishing them. He inflicts more hardness as punishment of their former hardness.
3. By turning them over to Satan, who will harden them further.
4. By turning them over to themselves to be given to their own heartfs lusts. God gave them over to a reprobate mind, Romans 1:28. He just turned them over to themselves.
We know people even today who have been totally forsaken by the Lord. They have been turned over to their own lusts. And they have gone downhill very quickly to where we cannot even recognize them today.
Though the Jews approved the hardening of Pharaoh, they held that God would never abandon them, regardless of their sin. They had the promises of God to the fathers that Pharaoh did not have, so they considered themselves safe.
Paul is pointing out that if they pursue Pharaohfs course of action against God, they also will experience Pharaohfs fate of hardening to their own destruction. God is not limited to race nor nationality, as his mercy and compassion is given or withheld according to his own purpose.
We see from the context that Paul is not dealing with theology here; rather, he is answering the arrogant Jewish Pharisaism as he asserts Diving liberty of bestowing mercy and withholding mercy.
V. 18. The Jews were claiming that "We are the People. We have special favor with God because of the promises". Paul assures them from their own history that it is God who makes the choice of mercy and non-mercy, and that choice is by mercy and grace, and not race nor birth.
The fourth section is vv. 19-24.
Let me remind us that Paul uses the term Jew referring to those who claimed the physical heirship to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob.
Now Paul continues to show that God was and is free to suspend his judgments and wrath according to his sovereign purpose. His power is displayed by taking vengeance on some, and by having mercy on others. It is all for his glory, and the creature cannot question the Creator with "What doest thou?"
Paul's proof for what he is presenting is found from the law and the prophets. He offers nothing new; rather, he simply gives the gospel light to the Old Testament.
In this chapter, Paul has dealt with two Jewish objections:
V. 6 the first objection was, God has broken his promises to
Answer, the promise was passed down by faith, not by birth.
V. 14, the second objection was, God is unjust in calling some
out of sin while leaving others in sin.
Answer, the reason God dispenses and withholds mercy is so that his power and name might be exalted throughout the earth. Pharaoh is the example.
Now he deals with the third objection:
V. 19, the third objection is that God is cruel or sever in judging the sinner, because he is the one who abandoned the sinner to his love for sin.
The argument against Paul's words goes something like this:
"If God is following his own will and pleasure alone in only calling certain ones out of the bondage of sin, then why does he complain of sinners, and find fault with them? Are they not responding according to the divine will. Who hath resisted his will?"
Vv. 20, 21. Paul has already answered this objection in v.
14, but he addresses it again with an illustration from Isaiah:
Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
Paul makes no attempt to explain why God does as he does. He answers the questions with It is none of our business, and God does not answer to his creation for his actions.
In Genesis 18:27, Abraham stood before the Lord pleading for Sodom. He confessed he was nothing but dust and ashes. So how can a creature who is but dust and ashes argue with the one who made him? How can a pot say to the potter, why have you made me like this?
Not far from us in Louisiana there was a pottery company in East Texas. We visited it several times. They had a public viewing area where tourist could watch the potters make the pottery, which was made from clay on the company's property. We never once saw a pot complain to the potter.
Lane is a Jointer, or cabinet maker. If the wood could talk, could it call him into question as to how he is shaping it? Can the wood determine how it is shaped and used? How about the wood we use for firewood? Can it complain that it is being burned?
Remember the purpose of these three chapters: Paul is answering the Jews' objections that they were the people of God. And because of the promises to the fathers, God had no right to cut them off because they rejected their Messiah.
Every time I think of this, I remember Job's words to his friends who were Acomforting@ him:
Job 12:2 No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
V. 21, as usual, Paul argues from the lessor to the greater, starting from clay to man. Using clay as his argument, Paul tells us that God has more authority over the clay than even a man has over the clay he works with. Man must seek the right kind of clay from which to make bricks or pottery. Man is at the mercy of the clay, and he must chose carefully if he wants to make anything of it. The same with those who work with wood.
The potter or carpenter then makes the product as pleases him, but he must have the best suitable raw material for his project.
Men make their choices of other men based upon a particular characteristic of those other men.
However, God made the clay, or man, he will use. All men are from the same lump of clay. All have the same corrupt, fallen nature, so there is no difference. In God's case, he has a rotten lump to begin with, and he is the one who must change that particular piece of clay he desires to work with.
All are from the same corrupt lump, and God is the one who decides what will be made from that corrupt lump. Some will be vessels unto honor and some to dishonor. Some will be vessels of mercy, and others vessels of wrath.
God does not have to give anyone a reason why he made that particular person the way he did. The Creator wrongs no man in his choice. The Creator does not answer to his creation. It is only the creature's arrogance that questions the Creator.
V. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
How many men and women have we met that are totally discontent with the way the Creator made them, and spend their lives fussing at God, and trying to change themselves into an image more to their own liking.
Obviously, God has provided godly surgery that can change some of the defects. Jessica's husband had a cleft pallet at birth, but surgery corrected that problem.
I must admit that I am sure we all have questioned God at one time or another, which was sin on our part.
The objection is in,
V. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Paul answers the objection raised in v. 19 that God is cruel or sever in judging the sinner, because he is the one who abandoned the sinner to his love for sin.
Vv. 22, 23.
Paul has already referred to Pharaoh, and vv. 22, 23 seems to describe the situation with Pharaoh. God's predetermined purpose with Pharaoh was to show his wrath, power and mercy, and Pharaoh fulfilled that purpose.
Paul had already told them that Pharaoh was raised up as a vessel of wrath for the very purpose of showing the power of God.
Joshua's spies had to hide from the authorities who wanted to kill them at Jericho. They hid in Rahab's house.
Rahab recounted to the spies what she had heard of God's power as he delivered Israel from Pharaoh, and said the inhabitants were terrified at the reports of God's power. Joshua 2:3-11.
They were also terrified of Israel when Moses arrived, but the lack of faith on Israel's part then prevented their taking the land.
V. 22, Longsuffering... In chapter 2, Paul pointed out that God bears long with the sinner, or has great patience toward them as they provoke him to wrath. He gives them plenty of opportunity to repent.
Fitted for destruction.
This is a hard saying, but Paul tells us that some men are made by God for destruction.
fitted for destruction C It is well remarked by STUART that the "difficulties which such statements involve are not to be got rid of by softening the language of one text, while so many others meet us which are of the same tenor; and even if we give up the Bible itself, so long as we acknowledge an omnipotent and omniscient God we cannot abate in the least degree from any of the difficulties which such texts make." Be it observed, however, that if God, as the apostle teaches, expressly "designed to manifest His wrath, and to make His power (in the way of wrath) known," it could only be by punishing some, while He pardons others; and if the choice between the two classes was not to be founded, as our apostle also teaches, on their own doings but on God's good pleasure, the decision behooved ultimately to rest with God. Yet, even in the necessary punishment of the wicked, as HODGE observes, so far from proceeding with undue severity, the apostle would have it remarked that God "endures with much long-suffering" those objects of His righteous displeasure. (JFB)
A softer understanding is given by the Family New Testament Notes:
The vessels of wrath; men who perseveringly refused to obey God. Fitted to destruction; by their own wickedness. If God continues men in life and surrounds them with mercies, yet leaves them to pursue their own chosen way, they will grow more wicked, and become more hardened in sin; till, by rejecting his kind invitations, and abusing his providence and grace, they have fitted themselves for destruction.
Certainly, we desire to explain away fitted to destruction, but if God prepared one man to mercy, then the other has to be to fitted to destruction. Again, the illustration is Pharaoh. The destruction may not be in the lifetime, but there will be everlasting destruction.
Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
V. 24, Paul sums up his argument:
The promise was never made to nor meant for the Abraham's physical seed. Paul clearly identifies who are the true seed of Abraham, and the children of the promise. Abraham's sons according to the promise, are the called out of all nations, whether Jew of Gentile. Whether Jews or Gentiles, some were from the very start vessels of mercy prepared unto glory, and others were prepared as vessels of wrath.
Paul has shown that God was and is free to suspend his judgments and wrath according to his sovereign purpose. His power is displayed by taking vengeance on some, or mercy on others. It is all for his glory, and the creature cannot question the Creator with What doest thou?
Now the Fifth section, vv. 25-29.
Again, we see that Paul's presentation of his doctrine that was so resisted by the natural man, is not much more than one Old Testament quote from the law and the prophets after another.
Osee is the Greek word for Hosea, to show that the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews was prophesied hundreds of years previously.
Hosea 1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
Hosea 2:23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.
Paul does not quote verbatim, but brings forward the general sense of the prophet.
1. From the very beginning, God intended to call his people
from the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
2. God was not nor is he now bound by any promise nor obligation to bestow salvation on all Jews, or the physical seed of Abraham.
3. Therefore, it was and is right for him to reject any or all of the physical seed of Abraham, the Jews, if he so chooses.
The thought in Hosea is that God would bring those into the Abrahamic covenant who were considered outcasts and strangers. Hosea said that it is God's sovereign right to choose his people from among the Gentiles as well as from among the Jews, and bestow or withhold his blessings as he pleases.
Vv. 27. The Jews were confident that being a Jew assured them that they were the sons of God. However, Paul has told them that the heirship is by faith, not birth. Paul now quotes another prophet.
Isaiah 10:22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. 23 For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.
Though there would be a great multitude of the physical seed of Abraham, only a small portion, remnant of them would be saved.
Isaiah 10:21 The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.
Shall return from the captivity of sin, and repent of sin, or turn to Christ.
The vast majority of those called to be sons of God would be non-Jews.
V. 28, a short work...
The reason only a few Jews, a remnant, would be saved was because God would cut the Jewish world short because of their sin.
Sennacherib and the Assyrians, Titus Vespasian and the Romans, these and others like them would God use to cut the nation short because of its sin. Rome completed the destruction of the Jewish world. Only a few survived.
Paul tells us that those few spared in their destructions are representative of the few among the Jews who should be saved by faith in Christ.
V. 29. As I have previously mentioned, Paul is dealing with a very strong Jewish mindset of we are the people, yet they reverenced the Law and the Prophets. So Romans 9 is one quote after another. This quote is from Isaiah:
Isaiah 1:9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Lord of Sabaoth, or as Isaiah said, the Lord of hosts... The mighty God who commands the armies of the world, especially those he sent to cut the Jewish world short.
Seed or remnant; that is, a very small number.
My dad's churches were always in small rural communities. I worked on farms from the time I was big enough to sit in a tractor seat. Probably my Freshman or Sophmoe year of high school, I worked for a farmer who had gas and oil wells on his property. He had the money to send his corn harvest south where he would get a better price. He would send the corn south, and bring back watermelons. I made one trip with his dad who drove the semi.
I remember them unloading the box trailor. There were several blacks with very large two handle scoops with small wheels on the back of them. They would push the scoop in the pile of grain, fill the shovel and tilt it back on its wheels and wheel it to the side door to dump into the elevator.
When they finished, there was very little grain left in the corners and cracks.
This is the picture Paul is presenting here. Out of the vast amount of grain, which represents the Jews, there was only a very small portion preserved by the Commander of the hosts of the armies of the world.
In fact, if the Commander had not stopped the armies, the Jews would have been as totally destroyed as was Sodom and Gomorrah.
Paul has quoted one prophecy after another to prove that the calling of the Gentiles, and rejection of the Jews was already well established.
The sixth section is vv. 30, 31.
Paul now concludes his sermon on the casting off of the Jews, and their replacement by the Gentiles as the people of God. However, he has shown that not all Jews were cast off. A small remnant was saved.
The Jews rejected God's righteousness as defined by his law of faith. They chose instead their own system of righteousness.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Observe: Without the Spirit of Christ, the natural man will always establish his own system of righteousness, which must lead to destruction. Sadly, they are so convinced of their own system, that they will cling to it at all costs, unless God intervenes.
Acts 18:5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. 6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.
Throughout the book of Acts, we see how the Jews rejected the gospel message, even persecuting the preachers. However, the Gentiles greatly rejoiced in the message.
Acts 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, 26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. 29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
Only the righteousness by faith makes one a child of God.
Israel followed after the law of righteousness. That is, they did great reverence to the Law of God, as they tried to follow its outward precepts and ceremonies. However, they failed in their attempt at the righteousness required by that law; that is, the righteousness that God will accept.
The last section, seventh, vv. 32, 33, Paul gives the cause of the Jew's refusal.
The Jews failed to obtain what they were looking for, because they sought righteousness by the works of the law rather than by faith in Christ. They sought to claim the promises by physical means of birth and law, rather than by faith.
The Jews were unable to grasp the truth that had been presented from the time of Abraham, that righteousness that is acceptable to God is through faith in his Son.
Stumbling-stone, or the true Messiah. Rather than seeking righteousness through Christ, they were offended at him.
Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother
of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters
here with us? And they were offended at him.
1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
They could not believe that faith provided the only righteousness accepted by God.
V. 33. To make his point, Paul again quotes the prophets:
Isaiah 8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
The Jews stumbled over the message of Christ. They were blinded to the truth in Christ. They were blinded so the Gentiles would benefit. The people of God have never been identified by any kind of physical birth, but by faith.
Ashamed, or confounded.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.