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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 9

Verses 1-33

  1. Intro. Title: Sovereignly Selected!
    1. Wow, so where do you go now Paul after chapter 8?
    2. He talks now about the nation of Israel for 3 chapters??? - Why the interruption?
      1. In the board game LIFE when you start the game, 1st space is a “Y” in the road. If you go left it’s Start Career(5 spaces) If you go right Start College(13 spaces)
      2. You would think that Paul would have hurried the game & went left, straight from, nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:39) to, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice. (12:1)
      3. Instead he chose right “Start College” the longer road…but for a purpose.
        1. It’s not an interruption but an illustration of his theme regarding God’s sovereignty & providence.
          1. Ch.9 = Israel’s Past Election; Ch.10 = Israel’s Present Rejection; Ch.11 = Israel’s Future Reception.
          2. He’ll prove God has dealt with them righteously. Also, He has not failed in working out His divine purposes.
    3. J. B. Phillips said, “We want, in fact, not so much a Father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven - a senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves" and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all."
  2. 9 SPIRITUAL ADVANTAGES OF SOVEREIGN SELECTION! (1-5)
    1. (2) Wow, don’t miss Paul’s heart here.
      1. Paul’s emotions have accompanied his theology…does yours?
        1. Especially on this topic!
      2. Paul affirmed that theology isn’t just supposed to fill the head; it also feeds the heart!
    1. (3) He stood ready to forfeit his own hope in Christ if only it could benefit them.
      1. Love doesn’t go any deeper than this!
    2. (4,5) He lists 9 advantages here that made their rejection even worse.
      1. Yet, with all these advantages & special blessings, as a people, they still didn’t acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah.
  3. 5 PERSONAL EXAMPLES OF SOVEREIGN SELECTION! (6-29)
    1. [1] THE EXAMPLE OF ISHMAEL & ISAAC! (6-10)
    2. God chose Isaac (Abraham’s son through Sarah) over Ishmael (Abraham’s son through Hagar).
    3. Israel’s rejection of Christ didn’t ruin God’s plan,…for He went to the Gentiles.
      1. God’s Word wasn’t intended for all who “boasted” of racial descent from Abraham.
      2. No Jew considered Ishmaelites to be the children of God’s promise to Abraham. Yet, he was as much a son to Abraham as Isaac was.
      3. They had mistaken their ethnicity for spiritual favor.
    4. [2] THE EXAMPLE OF ESAU & JACOB! (11-13)
    5. (10-13) God’s choice of Jacob over Esau.
      1. Both sons had the same father. Both had the same mother. They were brothers. They were not just brothers, they were twins(womb-mates).
      2. (11) God chose the younger twin.
        1. He also chose him before they both were born.
        2. It wasn’t based on their works of doing right & wrong.
        3. It was for the purpose of God, His election, His calling.
    6. Hate? – Did he mean this as a Hebrew idiom “I prefer Jacob to Esau”, or did he mean that He loathed him?
      1. God’s love for Jacob was revealed in His choice of Jacob; and God’s hatred for Esau was seen in His rejecting Esau for the line of promise.
      2. Hatred in this sense is not absolute but relative to a higher choice. [TBKC]
        1. Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother,…he cannot be My disciple.
        2. John 12:25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
    7. So, what do we do with this doctrine of Predestination?
      1. Some say, why argue it? people have been debating it for years.
      2. Others say, it just gets everybody fired up…what’s the use?
      3. Some say, it makes God unfair!
      4. Others, it hampers personal responsibility & evangelism.
      5. Doesn’t it remove human freedom, & make us all just puppets in a great cosmic show?
        1. Well, why dismiss it…let’s explore it. You might just find it is one of the most comforting for all Christians!
    8. Spurgeon was asked how he reconciled divine sovereignty & human responsibility, & hereplied, “I never try to reconcile friends.” [Illustration: 2 ropes dangling from heaven, almost touching earth. Jump up & hold on to both ropes, what you don’t realize is there’s a pulley in heaven, let go of either side & you fall]
      1. Augustine said that we must pray as though it all depended on God & work as though it all depended on us!
      2. Do you gnash your teeth at this doctrine? Do you seek to call Paul or worse “me” bad names? Can you not trust Him to be Supreme?
        1. Wait, can you imagine it the other way? Do you really wish to “go it on your own”, or have a “may the best man win” mentality?
    9. [3] THE EXAMPLE OF PHARAOH! (14-24)
    10. (14) Unfair…unjust…Certainly not! Not at all!
      1. Paul did not feel that God’s sovereignty in any way destroyed man’s responsibility. The God who ordains the end (saving the lost) also ordains the means to the end, the prayers & witness of His people. They go together!
    11. In electing man, God is somehow able to do it w/o (a) compromising His own righteousness, & w/o (b) giving man any just ground for complaint.
    12. (16) It is not the exercise of man’s will or his striving that compels God to withhold His judgment; it is His mercy that does!!!
      1. So, God is not obligated to save anybody, for all deserve to be condemned.
      2. Even Israel was chosen only because of His grace & love.
        1. Deut.7:7,8 The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you(Israel) because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, & because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers.
    13. (17,18) The opposite of showing mercy to the sinner, is hardening the heart of the sinner.
      1. Both are God’s sovereign will(18).
      2. Again, grace doesn’t come as something owed: it is a gift!
        1. It has to be, or it’s not grace!
    14. So, did God force Pharaoh & unbelievers to sin?
      1. Leon Morris writes, “neither here, nor anywhere else, is God said to harden anyone who had not 1st hardened himself!”
      2. God did harden Pharaoh! (Ex.9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:8)
        1. He even prophesied that he would harden his heart! (Ex.4:21; 7:3)
      3. But Pharaoh also hardened his own heart! (Ex.7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15)
    15. God determined to pardon sinful Israel with undeserved grace (15-16). God determined to punish sinful Pharaoh with deserved judgment (17-18).
    16. (19) Why does God still blame us? He’s just doing what He wants to, right?
      1. Doesn’t this get sinners off the hook as far as their accountability for their sins & the consequences of their unbelief?
        1. He answers it in 20,21.
        2. Wait Paul, isn’t that a cop-out answer?
        3. No! his answer is a reminder that God works according to His own perfect counsel & wisdom, even though we don’t understand it.
        4. Also, don’t confuse God’s mystery with capriciousness!
          1. Capricious = tending to make sudden & unpredictable changes.
        5. Also remember, God is good & can only do good! – He is just, holy, & all-wise. He is rich in mercy!
        6. Lastly, God doesn’t make anyone sin. People sin because they want to.
          1. Hopefully your question will change from, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” to, the more staggering question, “How can a holy & just God who cannot look upon sin, allow ANY of sinful humanity to enjoy the blessing of eternal life?”
    17. (22-23) What if? (hypothetical question)
      1. What if God just wants to show: His wrath, His power, His longsuffering, & especially…His glory?
    18. [4] THE EXAMPLE OF HOSEA! (25,26)
    19. This OT prophet predicted that God would not limit his grace to Israel but would save repenting Gentile peoples; Hosea called these Gentiles “sons of the living God” (Hos. 2:23; 1:10).
    20. Here Paul seems to shift the focus from questioning God’s character to celebrating His mercy!
      1. God has plucked all believers, both Jew & Gentiles, off the road to certain judgment, & lavished upon them His rich mercy. :)
    21. Gentiles are included in God’s redemptive plans.
    22. [5] THE EXAMPLE OF ISAIAH! (27-29)
    23. Only a remnant of believing Jews will be preserved.
      1. (27,28) Out of the millions of Israelites, only a small remnant will be saved.
      2. (29) Even the remnant would perish apart from the grace of God.
  4. NOW...A quick course on Logic!
    1. ​​​​​​​Slide#10a Circle of Theism:
      1. Everything inside the circle has some affiliation of a god or gods.
    2. Everything outside the circle is A-theism. “A” = no or non. So, when someone doesn’t believe in any god or gods, they are outside the circle of Theism.
    3. Circle of Justice:
      1. Everything inside the circle is Justice (or Righteousness).
      2. Everything outside the circle is Non-Justice. It includes everything outside of the circle of Justice. [I didn’t say Injustice]
        1. Is Injustice in or outside the circle of Justice? Outside.
        2. Is Injustice a good thing or a bad thing? Bad. It is evil.
        3. Is Mercy a bad thing? No.
        4. Is Mercy inside the circle of Justice? No.
          1. It is outside the circle of Justice. Mercy is non-justice.
    4. So, 2 things are outside the circle of Justice:
      1. Injustice - which is Evil.
      2. Mercy - which is not evil.
    5. Questions:
      1. Is there Injustice in God? No.
      2. Is there Unrighteousness in God? No.
      3. Is there Iniquity in God? No.
      4. Is there Non-justice in God? Yes. Thank God, there is Mercy & Grace that is not in the circle of Justice.
    6. (vs.15) If God shows you Mercy...is He obligated to give mercy to everybody?
      1. In our own justice system our President can exercise Executive Clemency. If he shows that mercy to one prisoner, is he obligated to pardon everyone else?
      2. Jacob got grace - what Esau got was not Injustice.
        1. God withheld His mercy to Esau, which Esau had no claim to.
          1. Jacob got mercy - Esau got Justice.
        2. The Elect gets mercy - the Non-elect get Justice...NO ONE gets Injustice!
  5. NOW...Insert The Doctrine of Concurrence! [concurrence = running together]
    1. Can events be fully caused by God & fully caused by the creature as well?
    2. A botanist can detail the factors that cause grass to grow, such as sun, moisture, temperature, nutrients in the soil, etc.
      1. I run down to Lowes, buy seeds, run back home, dig hole, prepare soil, add proper nutrients, water, keeps bugs away, one day it bears fruit, I say, “Voila! Look what I have grown.”
    3. Yet Scripture says God causes the grass/veggies/fruit to grow.
      1. Ps.104:14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth.
      2. It seems to reason that if we know the “natural” cause of something in this world, then God did not cause it.
        1. Rather, these passages affirm that such events are entirely caused by God. Yet we know that (in another sense) they are entirely caused by factors in the creation as well.
          1. It is not as though the event was partly caused by God and partly by factors in the created world.
          2. Rather, if it rains we should thank him. If crops grow we should thank him.
      3. The doctrine of concurrence affirms that God directs, and works through the distinctive properties of each created thing, so that these things themselves bring about the results that we see.
      4. In this way it is possible to affirm that in one sense events are fully (100%) caused by God and fully (100%) caused by the creature as well.
      5. However, divine and creaturely causes work in different ways:
        1. The divine cause of each event works as an invisible, behind-the-scenes, directing cause & therefore could be called the primary cause that plans & initiates everything that happens.
        2. But the created thing brings about actions in ways consistent with the creature’s own properties. Ways that can often be described by us or by professional scientists who carefully observe the processes. These creaturely factors and properties can therefore be called the secondary causes of everything that happens, even though they are the causes that are evident to us by observation.
  6. GRAND CONCLUSIONS CONCERNING SOVEREIGN SELECTION! (30-33)
    1. ​​​​​​​As mentioned earlier, the Jews didn’t hold legitimate claim on God’s favor, based on their national heritage. [It was all about faith/belief]
    2. The Gentiles, who didn’t pursue righteousness, attained it by faith. The Jews, who did pursue righteousness, based on the law, fell short of it.
      1. Israel’s refusal to “believe” in Jesus Christ was the reason for their rejection.
        1. He was their stumbling block (bait stick in a trap) over whom they had tripped & fallen.
        2. Righteousness comes by faith & faith alone!
    3. Slide#15-17 Deut.29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
    4. So this chapter wasn’t an interruption, but an illustration of Rom.8:30, Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
    5. Here’s what I know about Predestination: It tells me He loved me, He loves me, & He will love me forever!
    6. Only 2 options folks: Put your trust in Him; or, keep stubbing your toes on God’s Rock!

      Larry King Interviews God regarding Romans 9

      Larry King: Talk to me about freewill.
      God: Ok, why is it that finite man will fight for himself having freewill, but then turns around & is offended that I have it?

      Larry: Good question. But I think I’m asking the questions!
      God: Well,…right now.Larry: Hmm, right.

      Larry: Why is it ok that You picked Israel & not let’s say Syria? Why Jews & not Canaanites? Why Isaac & not Ishmael?
      God: Well, I actually started with a man whom I choose, Abraham.

      Larry: But why not a guy from outside of Israel, & let’s say from some pagan family?God: I did.Larry: Oh that’s right. You did that with Abraham.Larry: Ok, so why Abraham.
      God: To make him a great nation, to bless him, to make his name great.

      Larry: I didn’t know that!
      God: You would have if you took the Perspectives class at CCM. You would have found out that that promise is found a whopping 5 TIMES in scripture!

      Larry: Is that the church with that awesome pastor?
      God: (God smiles!)

      Larry: So you choose to bless this man, his family, & to make a great nation out of them.
      God: Yes, but one more thing. I did this so “he would be a blessing”. That, “all the families of the earth would be blessed!”

      Larry: Were they a blessing to all other nations?
      God: No not really. They kept the blessings to themselves.

      Larry: So what did You do.
      God: I took the blessings away for a time. And in the meanwhile I have given them to the Gentiles…to My Sons church.

      Larry: Wow, I bet that made the Jews jealous?
      God: It did. But even in that I sought to win them through that jealousy.

      Larry: How is the church doing with the “blessing of the nations” by sharing Your Good News?
      God: Well, the 1st group at the time of My Son were told not to tell anybody who He was. And they told everybody. - After His Resurrection He told them to make sure they told everybody… but they seem not to want to tell anybody.

      Larry: That’s funny!
      God: No, that’s tragic.

      Larry: So, I understand you’re still not finished with Israel. As You said You took away their blessing…“for a time.” So, how long before you start up with them again.
      God: I’m not telling.

      Larry: Ok. So it really comes down to “You” choosing…doesn’t it. That’s a lot of responsibility on your part isn’t it?
      God: Yes, I guess you’ll have to trust me on that one!

      Larry: Isn’t that called faith?
      God: Now you’re getting it Larry.

      Larry: 1 last question, “Can you tell me why avocados have such large seeds?”
      God: “Not yet!”

      Larry: That’s fare. – Well, I’m sure you have to get back to “running the universe”.
      God: I was!

      Larry: Oh, I guess so! - This is Larry King live…w/God.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/romans-9.html. 2017.