Adam Clarke Commentary
Paul expresses his great sorrow for the unbelief and obstinacy of the Jews, Romans 9:1-3. Whose high privileges he enumerates, Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5. Points out the manner in which God has chosen to communicate the knowledge of his name to both Jews and Gentiles; and how he deals, whether in judgment or mercy, with individuals; and produces the cases of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and Pharaoh, Romans 9:6-17. God shows mercy and judgment as he thinks proper, and none have a right to find fault with his proceedings, Romans 9:18-20. He has the same power over the human race as the potter has over the clay, Romans 9:21-23. The prophets predicted the calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews, Romans 9:24-29. The Gentiles have attained to the knowledge of God‘s method of saving sinners; while the Jews have not attained this knowledge, Romans 9:30, Romans 9:31. The reason why the Jews have not attained the salvation provided for them in the Gospel, Romans 9:32, Romans 9:33.
To this and the tenth chapter, Dr. Taylor has prefixed the following judicious summary: -
(1)solemnly declares his tenderest affection for his countrymen, and his real grief of heart for their infidelity and consequent rejection, Romans 9:1-5;
(2)Answers objections against this rejection, Romans 9:6-23;
(5)Proves the necessity of the apostolic mission to the Gentiles in order to their salvation, Romans 10:14-21.
And all this was intended at once to vindicate the Divine dispensations; to convince the infidel Jew; to satisfy the believing Gentile that his calling or invitation into the Church of God was valid; to arm him against the cavils and objections of the unbelieving Jews, and to dispose the Christian Jew to receive and own the believing Gentile as a member of the family and kingdom of God, by Divine right, equal to any to which he himself could pretend. See Taylor‘s notes, p. 321, etc.
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not - This is one of the most solemn oaths any man can possibly take. He appeals to Christ as the searcher of hearts that he tells the truth; asserts that his conscience was free from all guile in this matter, and that the Holy Ghost bore him testimony that what he said was true. Hence we find that the testimony of a man‘s own conscience, and the testimony of the Holy Ghost, are two distinct things, and that the apostle had both at the same time.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ - This and the two preceding verses are thus paraphrased by Dr. Taylor: I am so far from insisting on the doctrine (of the rejection of the Jews) out of any ill-will to my countrymen, that I solemnly declare, in the sincerity of my heart, without the least fiction or dissimulation - and herein I have the testimony of my own conscience, enlightened and directed by the Spirit of God - that I am so far from taking pleasure in the rejection of the Jewish nation, that, contrariwise, it gives me continual pain and uneasiness, insomuch that, as Moses formerly (when God proposed to cut them off, and in their stead to make him a great nation, Exodus 32:10) begged that he himself should rather die than that the children of Israel should be destroyed, Exodus 32:32, so I could even wish that the exclusion from the visible Church, which will happen to the Jewish nation, might fall to my own share, if hereby they might be kept in it and to this I am inclined by natural affection, for the Jews are my dear brethren and kindred.
Who are Israelites - Descendants of Jacob, a man so highly favored of God, and from whom he received his name Israel - a prince of God, Genesis 32:28; from which name his descendants were called Israelites, and separated unto God for his glory and praise. Their very name of Israelites implied their very high dignity; they were a royal nation; princes of the most high God.
The adoption - The Israelites were all taken into the family of God, and were called his sons and first-born, Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1; and this adoption took place when God made the covenant with them at Horeb.
The glory - The manifestation of God among them; principally by the cloud and pillar, and the Shekinah, or Divine presence, appearing between the cherubim over the mercy-seat. These were peculiar to the Jews; no other nation was ever thus favored.
The covenants - The covenants made with Abraham, both that which relates to the spiritual seed, and that which was peculiar to his natural descendants, Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:17; which covenants were afterwards renewed by Moses, Deuteronomy 29:1. Some suppose that the singular is here put for the plural, and that by covenants we are to understand the decalogue, which is termed ברית (berith), or covenant, Deuteronomy 4:13. But it is more likely that the apostle alludes to the great covenant made with Abraham, and to its various renewals and extensions at different times afterwards, as well as to its twofold design - the grant of the land of Canaan, and the rest that remains for the people of God.
The giving of the law - The revelation of God by God himself, containing a system of moral and political precepts. This was also peculiar to the Jews; for to no other nation had he ever given a revelation of his will.
The service - Λατρεια . The particular ordinances, rites, and ceremonies of their religious worship, and especially the sacrificial system, so expressive of the sinfulness of sin and the holiness of God.
The promises - The land of Canaan, and the blessings of the Messiah and his kingdom; which promises had been made and often repeated to the patriarchs and to the prophets.
Whose are the fathers - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, etc., etc., without controversy, the greatest and most eminent men that ever flourished under heaven. From these, is an uninterrupted and unpolluted line, the Jewish people had descended; and it was no small glory to be able to reckon, in their genealogy, persons of such incomparable merit and excellency.
And of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came - These ancestors were the more renowned, as being the progenitors of the human nature of the Messiah. Christ, the Messiah, κατα σαρκα , according to the flesh, sprang from them. But this Messiah was more than man, he is God over all; the very Being who gave them being, though he appeared to receive a being from them.
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect - A Jew might have objected, as in Romans 3:3: “Is not God bound by his faithfulness to continue the Jews as his peculiar Church and people, notwithstanding the infidelity of the major part of them? If they are brought to a level with the Gentiles, will it not follow that God hath failed in the performance of his promise to Abraham? Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:8: I will establish my covenant between me and thee for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee.” To which it may be answered: This awful dispensation of God towards the Jews is not inconsistent with the veracity of the Divine promise; for even the whole body of natural born Jews are not the whole of the Israelites comprehended in the promise. Abraham is the father of many nations; and his seed is not only that which is of the law, but that also which is of the faith of Abraham, Romans 4:16, Romans 4:17. The Gentiles were included in the Abrahamic covenant as well as the Jews; and therefore the Jews have no exclusive right to the blessings of God‘s kingdom.
Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, etc. - Nor can they conclude, because they are the natural descendants of Abraham, that therefore they are all of them, without exception, the children in whom the promise is to be fulfilled.
But, in Isaac shall thy seed be called - The promise is not confined to immediate natural descent, but may be accomplished in any part of Abraham‘s posterity. For Abraham had several sons besides Isaac, Genesis 25:1, Genesis 25:2, particularly Ishmael, who was circumcised before Isaac was born, and in whom Abraham was desirous that the promise should be fulfilled, Genesis 17:18, and in him God might have fulfilled the promise, had he so pleased; and yet he said to Abraham, Genesis 21:12: Not in Ishmael, but in Isaac, shall thy seed be called.
That is, They which are the children of the flesh - Whence it appears that not the children who descend from Abraham‘s loins, nor those who were circumcised as he was, nor even those whom he might expect and desire, are therefore the Church and people of God; but those who are made children by the good pleasure and promise of God, as Isaac was, are alone to be accounted for the seed with whom the covenant was established.
For this is the word of promise, etc. - That is, this is evidently implied in the promise recorded Genesis 18:10: At this time I will come, saith God, and exert my Divine power, and Sarah, though fourscore and ten years old, shall have a son; which shows that it is the sovereign will and act of God alone, which singles out and constitutes the peculiar seed that was to inherit the promise made to Abraham.
And not only this - A Jew might object: “Ishmael was rejected, not by the sovereign will of God, but because he was the son of the handmaid, or bond-woman, and therefore unworthy to be the peculiar seed; but observe, this was not the only limitation of the seed of Abraham with regard to inheriting the promise, for when Rebecca was with child by that one person of Abraham‘s issue to whom the promise was made, namely, our father Isaac, she went to inquire of the Lord, Genesis 25:22, Genesis 25:23: And the Lord said unto her, 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. That is, the posterity of the younger shall be a nation much more prosperous and happy than the posterity of the elder.
For the children being not yet born - As the word children is not in the text, the word nations would be more proper; for it is of nations that the apostle speaks, as the following verses show, as well as the history to which he refers.
Neither having done any good - To merit the distinction of being made the peculiar people of God; nor evil, to deserve to be left out of this covenant, and the distinguishing national blessings which it conferred; that the purpose of God according to election might stand - that such distinctions might appear to depend on nothing but God‘s free choice, not of works, or any desert in the people or nations thus chosen; but of the mere purpose of him who calleth any people he pleases, to make them the depositories of his especial blessings, and thus to distinguish them from all others.
The elder shall serve the younger - These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honor of being Abraham‘s seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Genesis 32:4; Genesis 33:8, Genesis 33:13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob‘s posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau‘s posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.
1.It incontestably appears from these passages that the prophet does not speak at all of the person of Jacob or Esau, but of their respective posterities. For it was not Esau in person that said, We are impoverished; neither were his mountains nor heritage laid waste. Now, if the prophet speaks neither of the person of the one nor of the person of the other, but of their posterity only, then it is evident that the apostle speaks of them in the same way.
2.If neither the prophet nor the apostle speaks of the persons of Jacob or Esau, but of their posterity, then it is evident that neither the love of God to Jacob, nor the hatred of God to Esau, were such, according to which the eternal states of men, either in happiness or misery, are to be determined; nor is there here any Scriptural or rational ground for the decree of unconditional personal election and reprobation, which, comparatively, modern times have endeavored to build on these scriptures. For,
1.It is here proved that Esau is not mentioned under any personal consideration, but only as the head of his posterity.
1.He chose the Jewish people from all others, and revealed himself to them. Thus they were the elect, and all the nations of mankind reprobate.
7.That no personal, absolute, eternal reprobation of Esau can have been intended, we learn from this; that he was most amply reconciled to his brother, who had so deeply wronged and offended him, by depriving him of his birthright and his blessing: and his having forgiven his brother his trespasses, was no mean proof that God had forgiven him. See our Lord‘s words, Matthew 6:14. Therefore there can be assigned no competent ground of his damnation, much less of his personal reprobation from all eternity.
What shall we say then? - To what conclusion shall we come on the facts before us? Shall we suggest that God‘s bestowing peculiar privileges in this unequal manner, on those who otherwise are in equal circumstances, is inconsistent with justice and equity? By no means. Whatever God does is right, and he may dispense his blessings to whom and or what terms he pleases.
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy, etc. - The words of God to Moses, Exodus 33:19, show that God has a right to dispense his blessings as he pleases; for, after he had declared that he would spare the Jews of old, and continue them in the relation of his peculiar people, when they had deserved to have been cut off for their idolatry, he said: I will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. As if he had said: I will make such a display of my perfections as shall convince you that my nature is kind and beneficent; but know, that I am a debtor to none of my creatures. My benefits and blessings are merely from my own good will: nor can any people, much less a rebellious people, challenge them as their due in justice or equity. And therefore I now spare the Jews; not because either you, who intercede for them or they themselves have any claim upon my favor, but of my own free and sovereign grace I choose to show them mercy and compassion. I will give my salvation in my own way and on my own terms. He that believeth on my Son Jesus shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned. This is God‘s ultimate design; this purpose he will never change; and this he has fully declared in the everlasting Gospel. This is the grand Decree of reprobation and election.
So then it is not of him that willeth, etc. - I conclude, therefore, from these several instances, that the making or continuing any body of men the peculiar people of God, is righteously determined; not by the judgment, hopes, or wishes of men, but by the will and wisdom of God alone. For Abraham judged that the blessing ought, and he willed, desired, that it might be given to Ishmael; and Isaac also willed, designed, it for his first-born, Esau: and Esau, wishing and hoping that it might be his, readily went, ran a hunting for venison, that he might have the blessing regularly conveyed to him: but they were all disappointed - Abraham and Isaac, who willed, and Esau who ran: for God had originally intended that the blessing of being a great nation and distinguished people should, of his mere good pleasure, be given to Isaac and Jacob, and be confirmed in their posterity; and to them it was given. And when by their apostasy they had forfeited this privilege, it was not Moses‘ willing, nor any prior obligation God was under, but his own sovereign mercy, which continued it to them.
For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh - Instead of showing the Israelites mercy he might justly have suffered them to have gone on in sin, till he should have signalized his wisdom and justice in their destruction; as appears from what God in his word declares concerning his dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Exodus 9:15, Exodus 9:16: For now, saith the Lord, I had stretched forth my hand, (in the plague of boils and blains), and I had smitten thee and thy people with the pestilence; and thou hadst (by this plague) been cut off from the earth; (as thy cattle were by the murrain); but in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up - I have restored thee to health by removing the boils and blains, and by respiting thy deserved destruction to a longer day, that I may, in thy instance, give such a demonstration of my power in thy final overthrow, that all mankind may learn that I am God, the righteous Judge of all the earth, the avenger of wickedness. See this translation of the original vindicated in my notes on Exodus 9:15 (note), Exodus 9:16 (note); and, about the hardening of Pharaoh, see the notes on those places where the words occur in the same book.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will - This is the apostle‘s conclusion from the facts already laid down: that God, according to his own will and wisdom, in perfect righteousness, bestows mercy; that is to say, his blessings upon one part of mankind, (the Jews of old, and the Gentiles of the present time), while he suffers another part (the Egyptians of old, and the Jews of the present day) to go on in the abuse of his goodness and forbearance, hardening themselves in sin, till he brings upon them a most just and exemplary punishment, unless this be prevented by their deep repentance and general return to God through Jesus the promised, the real Messiah.
Why doth he yet find fault? - The apostle here introduces the Jew making an objection similar to that in Romans 3:7: If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, that is, if God‘s faithfulness is glorified by my wickedness, why yet am I also judged as a sinner? Why am I condemned for that which brings so much glory to him? The question here is: If God‘s glory be so highly promoted and manifested by our obstinacy, and he suffers us to proceed in our hardness and infidelity, why does he find fault with us, or punish us for that which is according to his good pleasure?
Nay but, O man, who art thou - As if he had said: Weak, ignorant man, darest thou retort on the infinitely good and righteous God? Reflect on thyself; and tell me, after thou hast abused the grace of God, and transgressed his laws, wilt thou cavil at his dispensations? God hath made, created, formed the Jewish nation; and shall the thing formed, when it hath corrupted itself, pretend to correct the wise and gracious Author of its being, and say, Why hast thou made me thus? Why hast thou constituted me in this manner? Thou hast done me wrong in giving me my being under such and such conditions.
Hath not the potter power over the clay - The apostle continues his answer to the Jew. Hath not God shown, by the parable of the potter, Jeremiah 18:1, etc., that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as he in his infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honorable and another to a less honorable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces? For the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter‘s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter‘s house, and, behold, he wrought a work upon the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. It was not fit for the more honorable place in the mansion, and therefore he made it for a less honorable place, but as necessary for the master‘s use there, as it could have been in a more honorable situation. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter‘s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation - to build and to plant it; is it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. The reference to this parable shows most positively that the apostle is speaking of men, not individually, but nationally; and it is strange that men should have given his words any other application with this scripture before their eyes.
What if God, willing to show his wrath - The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah‘s parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath - persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle‘s time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle.
And that he might make known - God endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath:
1.To show his wrath, and to make his power known. And also,
2.That he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy.
Which he had afore prepared unto glory - The Jews were fitted for destruction long before; but the fittest time to destroy them was after he had prepared the believing Gentiles unto glory. For the rod of the Messiah‘s strength was to be sent out of Zion, Psalm 110:2. The Jewish nation was to supply the first preachers of the Gospel, and from Jerusalem their sound was to go forth into all the earth. Therefore the Jewish state, notwithstanding its corruptions, was to be preserved till the Messiah came, and even till the Gospel preached by the apostles had taken deep root in the Gentile world. Another thing which rendered the time when the Jewish polity was overthrown the most proper, was this, because then the immediate occasion of it was the extensiveness of the Divine grace. They would not have the Gentiles admitted into the Church of God; but contradicted, and blasphemed, and rejected the Lord that bought them: thus, then, the extensiveness of the Divine grace occasioned their infidelity, Romans 9:33; Romans 10:3; Romans 11:11, Romans 11:12, Romans 11:15, Romans 11:28, Romans 11:30. Thus the Jews were diminished by that abundance of grace which has enriched the Gentiles. And so the grace of God was illustrated; or, so God made known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy - the apostles and primitive believers among the Jews, and the Gentile world, which received the Gospel by the preaching of the apostles and their successors.
Even us, whom he hath called - All the Jews and Gentiles who have been invited by the preaching of the Gospel to receive justification by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and have come to the Gospel feast on this invitation.
As he saith also in Osee - It is a cause of not a little confusion, that a uniformity in the orthography of the proper names of the Old and New Testaments has not been preserved. What stranger to our sacred books would suppose that the Osee above meant the Prophet Hosea, from whom, Hosea 2:23, this quotation is taken: I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people. The apostle shows that this calling of the Gentiles was no fortuitous thing, but a firm purpose in the Divine mind, which he had largely revealed to the prophets; and by opposing the calling of the Gentiles, the Jews in effect renounced their prophets, and fought against God.
And it shall come to pass, etc. - These quotations are taken out of Hosea, Hosea 1:10, where (immediately after God had rejected the ten tribes, or kingdom of Israel, Hosea 1:9, then saith God, Call his name Lo-ammi; for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God), he adds, 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 in which 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. As if he had said: The decrease of numbers in the Church, by God‘s utterly taking away the ten tribes, (Hosea 1:6), shall be well supplied by what shall afterwards come to pass, by calling the Gentiles into it. They, the rejected Jews, which had been the people of God, should become a Lo-ammi - not my people. On the contrary, they, the Gentiles, who had been a Lo-ammi - not my people, should become the children of the living God. Again, Hosea 2:23: I will sow her (the Jewish Church) unto me in the earth, (alluding probably to the dispersion of the Jews over all the Roman empire; which proved a fruitful cause of preparing the Gentiles for the reception of the Gospel), and, or moreover, I will have mercy upon her, the body of the believing Gentiles, that had not obtained mercy. See Taylor.
Esaias also crieth - The apostle pursues his argument, which had for its object the proof that God, for their infidelity, had rejected the great body of the Jews, and that but a few of them would embrace the Gospel, and be saved from that besom of destruction which was now coming to sweep them and their state away. Dr. Taylor paraphrases this and the following verses thus: And that but a small remnant of the Jews shall now be taken into the Church, is agreeable to former dispensations; for the Prophet Isaiah expressly declares concerning the Israelites, Isaiah 10:22, Isaiah 10:23: Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, (for the promise to Abraham has been amply fulfilled), only a remnant shall be saved; the consumption decreed shall overflow in righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined in the midst of all the land.
For he will finish the work, and cut it short, etc. - These appear to be forensic terms, and refer to the conclusion of a judicial proceeding; the Lord has tried and found them guilty, and will immediately execute upon them the punishment due to their transgressions.
And as Esaias said before - What God designs to do with the Jews at present, because of their obstinacy and rebellion, is similar to what he has done before, to which the same prophet refers, 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 Gomorrha: i.e. had not God, who commands and overrules all the powers in heaven and earth, in mercy preserved a very small remnant, to keep up the name and being of the nation, it had been quite cut off and extinct, as Sodom and Gomorrha were. Thus we learn that it is no new thing with God to abandon the greatest part of the Jewish nation, when corrupt, and to confine his favor and blessing to a righteous, believing few.
What shall we say then? - What is the final conclusion to be drawn from all these prophecies, facts, and reasonings? This: That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, etc. This, with the succeeding verses, together with what belongs to the same subject in the beginning of the following chapter, I have explained at large in the notes on Romans 1:17, to which I must refer the reader; and shall content myself in this place with Dr. Taylor‘s general paraphrase. We may suppose the apostle to express himself to the following effect. Thus I have vindicated the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, with regard to the Divine veracity and justice. Now let us turn our thoughts to the true reason and state of the affair considered in itself. And, in the first place, what just notion ought we to have of the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews? I answer: The true notion of the calling or inviting of the Gentiles is this: whereas they had no apprehension of being reinstated in the privileges of God‘s peculiar kingdom, and consequently used no endeavors to obtain that blessing, yet, notwithstanding, they have attained to justification, to the remission of sins, and the privileges of God‘s people: not on account of their prior worthiness and obedience, but purely by the grace and mercy of God, received by faith on their part. And so, by embracing the scheme of life published by the Gospel, they are adopted into the family and Church of God. Thus the Gentiles are called or invited.
But Israel, which followed after - But the Jews, who have hitherto been the people of God, though they have been industrious in observing a rule by which they supposed they could secure the blessings of God‘s peculiar kingdom, yet have not come up to the true and only rule by which those blessings can be secured.
Wherefore? - And where lies their mistake? Being ignorant of God‘s righteousness - of his method of saving sinners by faith in Christ, they went about to establish their own righteousness - their own method of obtaining everlasting salvation. They attend not to the Abrahamic covenant, which stands on the extensive principles of grace and faith; but they turn all their regards to the law of Moses. They imagine that their obedience to that law gives them a right to the blessings of the Messiah‘s kingdom. But, finding that the Gospel sets our special interest in God and the privileges of his Church on a different footing, they are offended, and refuse to come into it.
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion - Christ, the Messiah, is become a stone of stumbling to them: and thus what is written in the prophecy of Isaiah is verified in their case, Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16: Behold, I lay in Sion, i.e. I shall bring in my Messiah; but he shall be a widely different person from him whom the Jews expect; for, whereas they expect the Messiah to be a mighty secular prince, and to set up a secular kingdom, he shall appear a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs; and redeem mankind, not by his sword or secular power, but by his humiliation, passion, and death. Therefore they will be offended at him and reject him, and think it would be reproachful to trust in such a person for salvation.
And whosoever believeth on him - But so far shall any be from confusion or disappointment who believes in Christ; that on the contrary, every genuine believer shall find salvation - the remission of sins here, and eternal glory hereafter. See the notes on Romans 1:16, and Romans 1:17 (note), and Dr. Taylor‘s paraphrase and notes.
How much was it to be lamented, that even civilized natures should forget the intention for which sacrifices were originally instituted! The bad effects, however, would not have been either so extensive or so great, had they not wholly lost the knowledge of Jehovah; and taken, as the object of their fear, that evil and apostate spirit whose name, with the utmost propriety is called Apollyon, or the destroyer, and whose worship has been universally diffused at different periods among all the nations of the earth.
I. The subject of the apostle‘s argument is manifestly such privileges as are enumerated, Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5: Who are Israelites, to whom pertains the adoption, etc. From these privileges he supposes the Jews had fallen, or would fall; or, that for a long time they would be deprived of the benefit of them. For it is with regard to the loss of those privileges that he was so much concerned for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, Romans 9:2, Romans 9:3. And it is with reference to their being stripped of these privileges that he vindicates the word and righteousness of God, Romans 9:24. Not as though the word of God had taken no effect, or failed, etc.; proving that God, according to his purpose of election, was free to confer them upon any branch of Abraham‘s family: consequently, those privileges were the singular blessings which by the purpose of God according to election, not of works, but of him that calleth, were conferred upon Jacob‘s posterity. But those privileges were only such as the whole body of the Israelites enjoyed in this world, while they were the Church and people of God, and such privileges as they might afterwards lose, or of which they might be deprived; therefore the election of Jacob‘s posterity to those privileges was not an absolute election to eternal life.
II. Agreeably to the purpose of God according to election, it was said unto Rebecca, The elder shall serve the younger, meaning the posterity of the elder and the younger; Genesis 25:23: The Lord said unto her, 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. These are the words which signify the purpose of God according to election: therefore the election refers to Jacob‘s posterity, or the whole nation of Israel. But all the nation of Israel were not absolutely elected to eternal life: therefore the purpose of God according to election referred to temporal and not to eternal blessings, and was a privilege of which they might be deprived.
VIII. Once more: whoever carefully peruses those three chapters will find that the people who in times past believed not God, but have Now obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews, Romans 11:30, are the whole body of the believing Gentiles; the same who were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted, contrary to nature, into the good olive tree, Romans 11:24, Romans 11:17; the same to whom God hath shown goodness, Romans 11:22; the World that was reconciled, Romans 11:15; the Gentiles who were enriched by the diminishing of the Jews, Romans 11:12; to whom salvation came through their fall, Romans 11:11; the Gentiles who had attained to righteousness, (justification), Romans 9:30; who had not been God‘s people, nor believed; but now were his people, beloved, and children of the living God, Romans 9:25, Romans 9:26; even US whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, out also of the Gentiles, Romans 9:24, who are the vessels of mercy, on whom God has made known the riches of his glory, Romans 9:23; the vessels made unto honor, Romans 9:21. He speaks of the same body of men in all these places; namely, of the believing Gentiles principally, but not excluding the small remnant of the believing Jews, who were incorporated with them. And it is this body of men, whose calling and election he is proving, in whose case the purpose of God according to election stands good, Romans 9:11, and who are the children of the promise that are counted for the seed, Romans 9:8: these are the election, or the elect.
Now, concerning this called or elect body of people, or any particular person belonging to this body, the apostle writes thus, Romans 11:20-22: Well, because of unbelief, they (the Jews) were broken off, (reprobated, rejected), and thou standest (in the Church among God‘s called and elect) by faith; be not high minded, but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, (the Jews), take heed, lest he also spare not thee, (the Gentiles.) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them (the Jews) which fell, severity; but towards thee (believing Gentiles) goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off, rejected, reprobated. This proves that the calling, and election, for which the apostle is arguing in the ninth chapter, is not absolute election unto eternal life, but to the present privileges of the Church - the honors and advantages of God‘s peculiar people; which election, through unbelief and misimprovement, may be rendered void and come to nothing. See Dr. Taylor, p. 330, etc.
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