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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Romans 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

9:1-11:36 A PROBLEM CONCERNING ISRAEL

The problem stated (9:1-5)

As Paul thinks about the greatness of the salvation God has provided, he is filled with sorrow, because his own people, the Jews, have rejected it. He would do anything to see them repent and believe (9:1-3). God chose Israel to be his own special people and prepared them in many ways to receive the gospel. He gave them, among other things, the privileges of sonship, the security of the covenant, a form of worship, a law-code to live by and many outstanding leaders, but when the gospel finally came to them in the person of Christ, they rejected it (4-5). Paul now considers whether God's plan has failed and whether there is any hope for Israel.


Verses 6-29

God chooses according to his will (9:6-29)

Paul's first assertion is that the promise of God has not failed. He reminds his readers of what he said earlier, namely, that people who are Israelites physically are not necessarily Israelites spiritually. In other words, not all who are physically descended from Jacob (Israel) are the true people of God in the spiritual sense (6; cf. 2:28-29; 4:11-12).

To illustrate that not all descendants of a chosen person are truly God's people, Paul refers to the fathers of the nation. Abraham, for example, had several sons and many descendants, but the only descendants who were God's covenant people were those who came through Isaac. People belonged to God because of his promise, not because of their physical descent (7-9). Isaac, in turn, had two sons, Esau and Jacob, but God chose Jacob to be the father of his people and rejected Esau (10-13).

God's choice of one and rejection of the other does not mean that God is unjust. All people are sinners and none deserves his favour, but because he is God he may choose to have mercy on some (14-16). He may also choose to harden some, such as people like Pharaoh who persistently rebel against him. But always he does what is right, according to his perfect will (17-18).

The opponents of God may argue that God is unjust to save some and harden others. Paul replies sharply by asking who do people imagine themselves to be if they think they can argue with God? God is not answerable to the human beings he created. A potter does not have to tell a lump of clay why he decides to make it into either a beautiful bowl or a common pot (19-21). So it is with God. He is always patient and longsuffering towards sinners, but when he chooses to show his judgment and power in some and his mercy and glory in others, no one can question his right to exercise his power (22-23). In choosing his people, therefore, God may decide to call Gentiles as well as Jews (24).

Even the Old Testament records the principle that God may call those who were previously not his people and make them his people. This is what he has now done in building his new people, the church, largely from Gentiles (25-26). He has included in this people only a minority from Israel, since most of the Israelites, as in Old Testament times, have been stubbornly rebellious (27-29).


Verse 30

Israel responsible for its own loss (9:30-10:21)

Whatever God's purposes may be, the Jews are still responsible for their own loss. They cannot say God has rejected them. They have rejected God. Gentiles, who have no law, are justified by faith, and Jews can be too, if they will believe instead of trying to win God's favour through keeping the law. They will not accept that the way of salvation for them is the same as for the Gentiles - through faith in Christ (30-33). Paul wants the Jews to be saved, but they cannot be saved while trying to create their own righteousness through law-keeping. They must admit they are helpless sinners and accept the righteousness of God through Christ (10:1-4).

The language of law says, 'Do all this and you will live'. The problem is that none is able to keep the law perfectly. All are condemned to death (5). The language of faith says, 'Do nothing. Do not try to climb the heavens or search the depths, for Christ has already come down from heaven to earth, has been crucified, buried and raised from the dead. He can be yours through faith right where you are (6-8). Believe in him as your risen Saviour, declare him to be your Lord, and you will receive from God the righteousness that saves (9-10). This applies to all who cast themselves upon God in faith, Jews and Gentiles alike' (11-13).

Before people can believe this message, they must hear it. Therefore, Christians must be sent to proclaim it (14-15). Not all will accept the message, but Christians must proclaim it nevertheless. And the message they proclaim is the good news concerning Jesus Christ (16-17). The Jews have indeed heard this message, so they have no excuse (18). Their problem is not that they have not heard or understood it, but that they have refused to believe it (see v. 16). They become angry and envious when they see their supposedly ignorant Gentile neighbours accepting the gospel, but they themselves will not listen to it (19-21).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/romans-9.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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