God's Sovereignty in Setting aside Israel & Bringing in the Gentiles
Romans 9


Putting To Rest the Accusation that Paul was Biased (9:1-5)

Paul's Genuine Love for Israel (vv.1-3)


CHAPTER 9
 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit, v.1 He calls in God as a witness to his heart. He is about to testify concerning his love toward Israel, and he was speaking the truth. On other occasions, that extreme love carried him beyond the Lord's mind and against the leading of the Spirit (Acts 20:22; 21:4). 

2 that I have great grief and uninterrupted pain in my heart, v.2 His love for them was such that his heart was grief-stricken. He realized that they had failed to believe the gospel and rejected the Messiah, and there was going to be terrible governmental consequences for that.

3 for I have wished, I myself, to be a curse from the Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen, according to flesh; v.3 Paul recounts a passing thought he had once had concerning Israel. His love for them was so extreme that he would prefer his own damnation if it meant the salvation of his natural brethren. This is the same spirit that Moses displayed toward the stiff-necked children of Israel (Exodus 32:31-32). It is divine love. Greater love has no man than than to lay down his life for a friend; but here Paul considers laying down not only life, but eternity as well! Noticed that he says "I have wished", past tense. Perhaps he wished this before he understood that a Christian could never be accursed (Rom. 8). "Wished" is imperfect will, not as strong as "willed". It is one thing to have a hesitating thought like Paul, but none can measure up to the unwavering sacrifice of Jesus who set His face as a flint to go to Jerusalem.

Paul's Agreement with the Jews Concerning their Privileges (vv.4-5)

4 (1) who are Israelites; (2) whose is the adoption, (3) and the glory, (4) and the covenants, (5) and the law-giving, (6) and the service, (7) and the promises; 5 (8) whose are the fathers; (9) and of whom, as according to flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. vv.4-5 These are things that mark out Israel as a special nation. Those who claim the Church is the spiritual continuator of Israel say that all these things now belong to the Church. Paul says otherwise! By establishing the special privileges of Israel, Paul does what no anti-Semite can do, and thus exposes his pure heart.
  1. Israelites - They bore the special name of "Israel" (not Hebrews). Israel means "a prince with God", and the Israelites were those who had a place of privilege "with God and with men" (Gen. 32:28).
  2. The Adoption - This is adoption in a national sense (Ex. 4:22, Deut. 14; 7:6, Hos. 11:1). Adoption always has the sense of a favored status. Their adoption took places at the exodus.
  3. The Glory - The Shekinah glory cloud which is the visible presence of the Lord, and sign of God's favor upon them (Exodus 13:21-22). This glory will one day fill the Millennial temple (Ezek. 43:4).
  4. The Covenants - The covenants made with Abraham, Moses, Phinehas, and David, etc. (Gen. 15:18-21; 17:7, etc.) The covenants have to do with Israel on the earth, even the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31).
  5. The Giving of the Law - The five books of Moses had been given to them, and not any other nation. (Exodus 20).
  6. The Service of God - This refers to the Levitical service of the tabernacle and the temple: God's dwelling place and man's approach unto Him.
  7. The Promises - Referring to the glorious prospect of being the head of all the nations under Christ in the Millennium (Isa. 30:23-26; 32:1-20; 35:1-10). Paul is saying that the promises are to Israel as a nation, but we find in Rom. 11 that they will be fulfilled in a remnant.
  8. The Fathers - A tremendous heritage of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, etc.
  9. The Messiah - This was the Jews' crowning privilege. The Messiah personally came from their nation (Isa 9:6-7). He came "according to flesh" because only His humanity was Jewish, but He was also Divine.
v.5 This expression "the Christ, who is… God" sets forth the deity of Christ. But Paul insists that Christ is "over all", not just Israel. If they denied Messiah's sway over all (including Gentiles), their Millennial headship over the nations was at stake. Paul's "Amen" shows that he fully established these Jewish privileges and would not make light of them in his preaching, as the Jews had accused him.


Grace: God has always acted Sovereignly, even toward Israel (9:6-18)

 6a Not however as though the word of God had failed; v.6a The Word of God will be fulfilled. There will never be a circumstance in which the Word of God will fail. But on what basis will it be fulfilled? Through man's efforts? Or God's sovereignty? 

6b for not all are Israel which are of Israel; v.6b Paul argues that ultimate blessing is not by natural descent. Natural descent is something the Jews firmly believed. He is going to have to prove them wrong. Abraham has two kinds of descendants: there are those who merely have Abraham's blood, and then there are those who not only have his blood, but also his faith. The “seed of Abraham” are his natural descendants, the “children of Abraham” are his spiritual descendants (v.7, see John 8:37-39). Scripture distinguishes between the Jew and the true Jew (Rom. 2:28), between an Israelite and "an Israelite indeed" (John 1:47).

In Romans 9 we get four examples from Israel's history that illustrate God's sovereignty. In all four cases God worked in Israel's favor. They had no problem accepting God's sovereignty if He was God of the Jews only, but now the gospel of God's sovereign grace was going to the Gentiles. The Jews refused to accept it.
  1. The Lord chose Isaac rather than Ishmael (vv.7-9) 
  2. The Lord chose Jacob rather than Esau (vv.10-13) 
  3. The Lord chose to have mercy on Israel after their idolatry (vv.15-16) 
  4. The Lord chose to harden Pharaoh's heart (v.17) 
His argument is this: if God sovereignly called the Jews long ago, how can you say He is unrighteous to sovereignly call the Gentiles?

(1)The Lord chose Isaac rather than Ishmael (vv.7-9)

vv.7-9 Blessing not through paternal link. Paul now shows that blessing in Abraham's house did not come through natural descent. First he will rule out the paternal line in vv.7-9, then the maternal line in vv.10-13.


7 nor because they are seed of Abraham are all children: but, "In Isaac shall a seed be called to thee." [Gen. 21:12]  v.7 If blessing came through descendence from the father, then the Ishmaelites (children of Abraham and Hagar) and the Midianites (children of Abraham and Keturah) would be part of God's chosen people! But the scripture is clear that the chosen people came through Isaac. The Jews had to agree.


8 That is, they that are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned as seed. v.8 The blessing of God comes upon those who are the subject of His promise, not on those who can claim some fleshly or natural connection to Abraham.

9 For this word is of promise, "According to this time I will come, and there shall be a son to Sarah." [Gen. 18:14]   v.9 To show that the blessing fell on a specific person, Paul quotes from Gen. 18 where a son is promised to Sarah. If the blessing of God could be attained by fleshly means, Abraham could copulate with any woman (as he did with Hagar). But the wording of God's promise shows that the motherhood of the seed isn't random. Thus, Isaac was God's sovereign choice.

(2) The Lord chose Jacob rather than Esau (vv.10-13)

vv.10-13 Blessing not through maternal link. But the Jews might see another avenue to claim ancestral rights to the blessing. Well, if blessing came to Sarah's son, maybe blessing is still by the flesh (natural descent) but from the mother's side? After all, Hagar was a bondwoman, and Sarah was a free-woman. Perhaps Hagar's status disqualified her seed? No, because the next generation had a division again, and Rebekah was the mother of both twins. If blessing were through the maternal link, then the Edomites would be part of God's chosen people! Once again, the Jews had to agree.

10 And not only that, but Rebecca having conceived by one, Isaac our father, 11 the children indeed being not yet born, or having done anything good or worthless (that the purpose of God according to election might abide, not of works, but of him that calls), vv.10-11 The purpose of God is "according to election" in that He purposed the privileges to come to Jacob while the original promises were made to Abraham. This shows that God's sovereign election can pass one by and rest on another, not on the basis of a person's works.

12 it was said to her, "The greater shall serve the less:" [Gen. 25:23]  v.12 Before either child was born, God elected one for blessing. Normally, as the elder son, Esau would have had the place of privilege in Isaac's family, but God in His sovereign ways passed Esau by and rested on Jacob. God's sovereignty often runs against the grain of nature.

13 according as it is written, "I have loved Jacob, and I have hated Esau." [Mal. 1:2-3]  v.13 We need to understand that v.12 was said in foresight, but the second quotation (v.13) was said in hindsight, after they had lived their lives, had children, and the two families had proved their true character: Esau's was a character of hatred and bitterness, Jacob's was a character of faith. Jacob valued the promise of God, even though he connived to get it thought the flesh. But Esau despised it, and his descendants were characterized by bitterness toward Jacob. God has moral grounds for His hatred of Esau. This answers the false assertion of "double predestination", that God predestined some to a lost eternity as well as others to heaven.


Mercy: God’s Sovereignty does not make Him Unrighteous (9:14-18)

The following sections establish that God is sovereign, and that man's blessing depends on it. They also explain that man's rebellion cannot thwart the sovereign purpose of God. They explain that God has the prerogative to create men for blessing and for judgment; and He is righteous in either case because man is irremediably wicked. However, while He has the creatorial right to act sovereignly for blessing and judgment, He only exercises His sovereignty for man's blessing.

 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Far be the thought. v.14 When forced to admit to the sovereignty of God, man's response is often to blame and reply against God. The accusation is that God's sovereignty makes Him unrighteous for condemning people! Paul's classic response to an accusation that borders on blasphemy is "far be the thought"; or, "don't even think it".

(3) The Lord chose to have Mercy on Israel after their Idolatry (vv.15-16)

15 For he says to Moses, "I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy, and I will feel compassion for whom I will feel compassion." [Ex. 33:19]  v.15 Paul says "if you want to question God's righteousness, then let's talk about it." Israel displayed the grossest unrighteousness when they sinned against God in worshiping the golden calf. If God had responded only in righteousness to Israel's works, He would have destroyed the entire nation! Instead God sovereignly chose to have mercy on them, irrespective of man altogether. God was coming forth on a new principle of mercy. Israel could not argue with God's sovereignty in this case! Mercy and compassion are the way God acts toward the elect, because we were all undeserving.

16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shews mercy. v.16 Man has no part in mercy. It is all of God's choosing (Him that wills) and God's doing (Him that runs).
  • Not of Him that wills. Blessing will never come by man's willMan doesn't have a free will. The allusion may be to Isaac, whose desire was to bless the elder.
  • Not of Him that runs. Blessing will never come through the motions of the flesh, because "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." The allusion may be to Esau, who chased wild game to obtain the approval of his father.
vv.15-16 It is futile for man to seek to advance his own position before God by pitting his own righteousness against God's, because man has none (Rom. 3:10). The only ground of blessing for man is the sovereign mercy of God. This is the plea of every truly repenting sinner.

(4) The Lord chose to harden Pharaoh's heart (vv.17-18)

vv.17-18 Those who oppose God's sovereignty may concede when it comes to blessing, but more strongly oppose it when judgment is concerned. But we need to understand that God is sovereign over all circumstances, judgment included. Pharaoh's early history was much like Israel's; full of rebellion. But God chose to have mercy on Israel, and He chose to harden Pharaoh. It is important however to see that God's sovereign choice in a past eternity was one for blessing. The "will" to harden is part of God's moral government in time.

17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very thing I have raised thee up from amongst men, that I might thus shew in thee my power, and so that my name should be declared in all the earth." [Ex. 9:16]  v.17 "I have raised thee up" is not saying that God raised Pharaoh up in birth to show His wrath, or that He raised him up to be a wicked person. That is the false doctrine of eternal reprobation. Rather, He raised Pharaoh up to a place of power and prominence in the world. He was predestined to be a conspicuous person in world history, but as a result of his rebellion, he became a monument to the result of setting one's heart against a sovereign God. Recall that Pharaoh said "For who is the Lord that I should obey him?"

18 So then, to whom he will he shews mercy, and whom he will he hardens. v.18 God can do whatever He wants to do; this is the definition of sovereignty. It sounds like Pharaoh didn’t have a chance, but in reality Pharaoh hardened his heart first. It isn't until the seventh plague that God hardens his heart (Exodus 9:12), using Pharaoh's rebellion to manifest his power. Scripture says, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Prov. 29:1). This was the case with Pharaoh.

vv.17-18 A great principle we can take from this: when man's condition is proved irremediable, God acts either in grace or in judgment to make His glory known. God is not obligated to show mercy; He has moral grounds to governmentally harden or blind the heart. It is well to note that, for this reason, God promised in Isa. 6:9-10 that He would governmentally blind the nation of Israel. Jesus executed the sentence in John 12:40, and Paul officially pronounces it in Acts 28:26-27. If God could governmentally harden Pharaoh's heart, He certainly could blind the nation of Israel.


The Futility of Man's will in Light of God’s Sovereignty (9:19-23)

vv.19-23 God is sovereign, which means He has the divine prerogative to orchestrate persons, places, things, events, etc. ("all things") and work them together "according to the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). No matter what man does, whether he submits to God's sovereignty or if he rebels, God will get glory from man, even if it is by judgment. The most prevalent expression of man's will against God is rebellion against His judgment. Accordingly, Paul takes up this question in v.19. The natural man rebels against a sovereign God by throwing the question of "good and evil" against the divine purpose. Charging God with evil is an attempt to accomplish two things:
  • To rob God of His moral glory (in Him is light, and no darkness at all).
  • To absolve man of his responsibility to his Creator.
The answer? God's sovereignty in no way absolves man of his responsibility. A case in point: God's sovereign purpose in the cross does not absolve man of his guilt in crucifying the Messiah (you must read Acts 2:23).

Man has no business replying against a Creator God (vv.19-21)

 19 Thou wilt say to me then, Why does he yet find fault? for who resists his purpose? v.19 Man's infidelity rises higher. If God is in complete control, than how can He find fault with me? Isn't God unrighteous in predestinating people to hell? Well, in v.22 we will see that Paul is careful never to say that God predestines people to destruction. But that is not the most pressing issue with this question! The more pressing issue is that man has no right to question the ways of God.

20 Aye, but thou, O man, who art *thou* that answerest again to God? Shall the thing formed say to him that has formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? v.20 The response is aimed at the conscience. If God is the Creator, and all men have the evidence of this before them (Rom. 1:20), then who are we to question His intentions? To question the sovereignty of God is to misunderstand who God is, and who we are. This is the most fundamental of arguments; the Creator has sway over His creatures. Before man's case can be taken up, we must affirm the sovereignty of God.

21 Or has not the potter authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour? v.21 God can do as He pleases, and He never does anything wrong; "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). This verse does not say that God makes vessels to dishonor, but that He has the authority to do it. The danger is for us to "fill in the blanks" where scripture is silent. Those silences are important!

God's Sovereignty will Always Redound to His Glory (vv.22-23)

22 And if God, minded to shew his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; v.22 Notice that it doesn’t say God fits them for destruction. It says He suffers long those that "are fitted". They fit themselves for that end by sin and rebellion. For example, Judas fitted himself to be the Son of Perdition. He fitted himself for that role, and thus fitted himself for wrath. "Much long-suffering" is not a "laissez faire" policy. Never for one second does God take His hand off the wheel and let things take their course. But God endures the rebellion and the insults. World history is the proof of His endurance.

23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared for glory, v.23 No matter what man does, whether he submits to God's sovereignty or if he rebels, God will get glory from man, even if it is by judgment. It is striking that the vessels of wrath are used by God to make known His wrath and power, but it requires vessels of mercy to make known the "riches of His glory"! Also notice that "before prepared" is used for the elect vs. "fitted" for the vessels of wrath. The expression "before prepared" is not the idea of God's giving us certain spiritual qualities in this lifetime, but rather a preparation by sovereign election in a past eternity. The word "fitted" is the idea of a process accomplished in this lifetime.


God’s Sovereign Purpose to bless Gentiles in Prophecy (9:24-26)

vv.24-26 Since it has been proven that sovereign mercy is the criteria for blessing, no person is beyond the limits of mercy's reach. It it were by nature, or by works, some would be excluded. But sovereign mercy is boundless and free. Paul now shows that God's mercy is open to Gentiles as well as to Jews; and blessing will come upon all those that are the object of His sovereign call!

24 us, whom he has also called, not only from amongst the Jews, but also from amongst the nations? v.24 Paul now introduces the sovereign call of God. "Us whom he has called" refers to Christians who have believed the gospel; not only Jews but Gentiles. But the "calling" of this verse is not the same as the gospel call, or the invitational call. The invitational call goes out to all ("whosoever will"); but not all come. This effectual call has a one-for-one response rate! All those called for blessing, whether Jews or Gentiles, are blessed as a result of the sovereignty of God. The sovereign call carries with it the power to command a response!

vv.25-26 The following quotations are prophecies that will have their complete fulfillment in the Millennium, but Paul is applies them to the present period. James does the same in Acts 15:16. Paul does it again in Acts 13:46-48. These two quotations are carefully selected from Hosea and arranged to show that the sovereign call of God can and will:
  1. Find and bless the Jew, be he ever so far from God (v.25)
  2. Find and bless the Gentile, be he ever so far from God (v.26)
25 As he says also in Hosea, "I will call not-my-people My people; and the-not-beloved Beloved." [Hos. 2:23]  v.25 This scripture is prophetic of Israel, who was progressively set aside: Lo-Ruhamah, 'no-more-mercy' (the Assyrian Captivity) and Lo-Ammi, 'not-my-people' (the Babylonian Captivity), but will be restored in the Millennium (Ammi and Ruhamah). Here it is applied by Paul to the salvation of Jews at the present time who receive the sovereign call of God. Even though they have lost their distinctive name in relationship to Jehovah, yet God's sovereign call is effectual to the Jew!

26 And "it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, *Ye* are not my people, there shall they be called Sons of the living God." [Hos. 1:10]  v.26 This quotation is prophetic of Israel, but it also contains an allusion to the call of the Gentiles in the word "sons". In the expression sons of the living God, room is mysteriously left by God for the bringing in of the Gentiles too, because sonship is a title never given in its full force to any but the Gentiles who are now being called. Israel as a nation is sometimes referred to as "a son", but individually “sons” is always the calling of the Gentiles. What confirms this as the true interpretation is that Peter in quoting from Hosea (writing to a remnant of Jews only) omits the words, “sons of the living God.” See 1 Pet. 2:10 where the apostle quotes from Hos. 2, not Hos. 1. But Paul, writing to the Gentiles in Rom. 9:26, avails himself in a most appropriate way of what Peter passes by; not of Hos. 2:23 only (v.25), but of Hos. 1:10 (v.26), which intimates the call of Gentiles. This answers the logical inquiry as to why Paul places the fragment of Hosea 1:10 after that of 2:23. In summary, the sovereign call of God can find and bless the Gentile, as well as the Jew be he ever so far from God.

Hosea 1:10. The veiled reference to the call of the Gentiles in Hosea 1:10 is something that would not be known or understood until the New Testament, but it was there nonetheless. There is a rapid transition in the middle of the verse where the Spirit of Prophecy widens out the blessing to include Gentiles. Like this; "Ye [Israel] are not my people" -- transition -- "there shall they [millennial harvest including Gentiles] be called Sons of the living God." There is a similar transition in Isaiah 65:1-2, which the apostle employs in Rom. 10:20-21. In Isaiah 65:1 we see the blessing of the Gentiles, and in v.2 the rebellion of the Jews. The same apostle warrants this method of quoting prophecy in both Romans 9 and 10!


God’s Sovereign Purpose to bless Israel, through Only a Remnant (9:27-29)

vv.27-29 In the next few verses Paul shows that while the sovereignty of God is working on behalf of the Gentiles, it has not stopped working on behalf of the Jews. However, the numbers of Jews who will then inherit the blessing are greatly reduced. It shows that the rejection of the mass of the nation is predicted by prophecy.
  1. God will deal in righteousness with Israel, and so the mass will be cut down in judgment;
  2. God will remember mercy, and His steadfast promises, and will preserve a remnant.
27 But Esaias cries concerning Israel, "Should the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved: 28 for he is bringing the matter to an end, and cutting [it short in righteousness; because] a cutting short of the matter will the Lord accomplish upon the earth." [Isa. 10:22-23]  vv.27-28 In a future day, Israel will be blessed according to the sovereign promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, the mass of the nation will prove to be faithless and thus fall under God's judgment. It will only be a small remnant of faith that will form the nucleus of the nation in the Millennium. The "matter" of Israel's rebellion will be "cut short" by the 1st attack of the Assyrian at the beginning of the 75-day "Indignation" period. God is righteous in cutting down the mass of the nation because of their rebellion against Him. It will be sharp, and severe, but in His righteous judgment God will "in wrath remember mercy" (Hab. 3:2), and and Israel will not be exterminated.

29 And according as Esaias said before, "Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and made like even as Gomorrha." [Isa. 1:9]  v.29 The cities of the plain were totally exterminated. This will not be the case with Israel! The Lord will sovereignly preserve a remnant of the twelve tribes (the symbolical 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7) through the tribulation who will go into the Millennium. This remnant is like a "seed" that gets planted in a field after a fire. The 144,000 go into the Millennium and become the nucleus of the restored nation! The recovery of a remnant, in Israel's day or in any other time, is a result of the sovereign grace of God.


The Reason Israel has been Presently set aside & the Gentiles brought in (9:30-33)

vv.30-33 This is a transition into the next chapter. Paul now draws conclusion from the preceding arguments. He shows that just because God has acted in sovereignty, man is in no way absolved of his responsibility. Israel's rejection was because they had deliberately chosen works over grace.

 30 What then shall we say? That they of the nations, who did not follow after righteousness, have attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is on the principle of faith. v.30 The Gentiles had received the grace of God through the gospel, and thus gotten the very blessing the Jews were vainly seeking! Why? Not because they had a perfect track-record (it says they "followed not after righteousness"), but because they had faith. Romans 4 is crystal clear that God has always justified on the basis of faith. This is what we call "imputed righteousness" or, a righteous standing.

31 But Israel, pursuing after a law of righteousness, has not attained to that law. 32 Wherefore? Because it was not on the principle of faith, but as of works. They have stumbled at the stumblingstone, vv.31-32 The Jews misunderstood the purpose of the Law, which God gave to show man his true condition; a measuring stick if you will (see Gal. 3:19a, Romans 3:20; 5:20). Instead they abused it, thinking it was a ladder upon which one may climb to attain righteousness. It was really pride. They couldn't conceive of the law as intended to manifest their condition. They thought so highly of themselves that any gift from God must be intended for use to attain acceptance by their own righteousness! In misusing the Law they have become blinded as to their true state, which was fully manifested when Christ (the object of faith) came, for they rejected Him.

33 according as it is written, "Behold, I place in Zion…" [Isa. 28:16]   "… a stone of stumbling and rock of offence:[Isa. 8:14]   "… and he that believes on him shall not be ashamed." [Isa. 28:16]  v.33 Paul quotes from two verses in Isaiah and arranges the phrases to show that Christ was sent to "Zion" as a specific test of faith. Those without faith stumbled over and wrecked themselves on the Stone. But Paul is sure to quote the rest of the verse "and he that believes…" to show that any person, Jew or Gentile, is responsible to believe and can turn to God for mercy at any time.