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Romans 9

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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Romans CHAPTER 9:



'From the first, Paul had been writing with his Jewish kindred in mind. He had declared his gospel to be "the power of God unto salvation..to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (1:16). He had demonstrated how much the Jew needed the righteousness which the gospel revealed. He had shown, from the Jewish Scriptures, the way of righteousness by faith. He had answered the various objections which a Jew might make to a righteousness which was "apart from the Law". It was absolutely necessary, then, that Paul should deal with the historic and pathetic situation in which the Jews, as a nation, were rejecting the righteousness which God had provided..'

'It was of the essence of Paul's argument that the gospel which he (and his fellow-apostles) preached was no innovation. It was attested in the Hebrew Scriptures; it was the fulfillment of God's promise to the fathers; it proclaimed that God's way of righteousness through faith, by which Abraham had been blessed, was still open to all who believed in God as Abraham did. How came it, then, that it was pre-eminently Abraham's descendants who refused to believe the gospel? Surely, had Paul's claims been valid, the Jewish people would have been the first to acknowledge them? Such objections were no doubt voiced, and Paul could appreciate their force, although he was well aware of the fallacy which they involved. Yet it was a paradox, not to say a scandal, that the very nation which had been specially prepared by God for this time of fulfillment, the nation which could glory in so many unique privileges of divine grace (including above all the messianic hope), the nation into which in due course the Messiah had been born, should have failed to recognize Him when He came, while men and women of other nations which had never enjoyed such privileges embraced the gospel eagerly the first time they heard it. How could this be harmonized with God's choice of Israel and His declared purpose of blessing the world through Israel?'


The Calvinistic Doctrine of Predestination argues:

"By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death."

"God, by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction..those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless but at the same time incomprehensible judgement."

Thank God that the above isn't true! These three chapters (9,10,11), teach anything but predestination. Free-will and the consequences of one's free-will are found throughout. (9:32; 10:2-4,9-12,13, 16-21; 11:20-23,32)

"His own precious Son said ( Joh_5:40 'Ye will not come to me that ye may have life'; Mat_23:37 'How often would I have gathered your children..and ye would not...'; Mat_11:28 'Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest'.) Was he playing word-games? If his Father had eternally consigned these people (irrespective of their longings and choosing) to eternal death and torment, the Christ was only tantalizing the damned when he offered them life! There is a Man who protests such horrific doctrine as Calvinistic reprobation, the man is Jesus Christ."


I. Paul's Sorrow for his people: 9:1-3

II. The Blessings and Privileges of the Jew: 9:4-5

III. Physical ancestry was never the sole basis for obtaining God's promises: 9:6-13

IV. God's right to condemn or bless clearly stated: 9:14-23

V. Those that responded to God's Mercy: 9:24-29

VI. The Jewish rejection of Mercy: 9:30-33

Verse 1

Rom_9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit,

'I say the truth in Christ' -'I am telling the truth' (NASV). 'Paul really takes a triple oath here so strongly is he stirred. He makes a positive affirmation in Christ, a negative one (not lying), the appeal to his conscience as "co-witness". (Robertson p. 380) ( 2Co_11:31 ; Gal_1:20 )

'in the Holy Spirit' -a conscience not left to itself; but informed and enlightened by the Spirit of God. (Alford p. 918)

"Paul insists that he is a lover of his people. He must not be thought a renegade whose dissatisfaction with his heritage had driven him to defamation of his people. He lives with the pain of watching his people, in bulk, wander outside of their Messiah when they could so easily be enjoying what God had promised them."

Being the Apostle to the Gentiles ( Gal_2:7 ), caused many of Jewish background to view Paul as a traitor to his people. ( Act_22:22 )

Verse 2

Rom_9:2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.

'Great sorrow' -3601. odune od-oo'-nay; from 1416; grief (as dejecting): -sorrow. Some derive it from the root 'ed eat', as indicating consuming pain. (Vincent p. 99) Old word for consuming grief. (Robertson p. 380)

Paul was a man that was honest with life. He allowed himself to really see and experience the 'harsh realities' of life (God's own people on the road to damnation), and yet he also experienced true joy. ( Php_4:4 ). He did not seek to protect himself or insulate himself from life. The person who has a relationship with Jesus Christ, doesn't have to 'pretend' about anything. Such a person can face life 'head-on', and it not destroy their attitude about 'life', 'people' or the future.

Verse 3

Rom_9:3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

'I could wish' -'I was on the point of wishing' (Robertson p. 380). 'So strongly did he feel for his people that he had found himself (at times) in the past, and even yet, musing with himself and saying..'if such were possible, I would buy the salvation of this nation at the price of my own salvation.' (McGuiggan p. 283/Lenski p. 583) 'Were Paul to act from his intense love for his Jewish brethren alone, it would prompt him to give up Christ himself, if thereby he could save them. But there are other considerations that would hinder his acting on these..' (Lipscomb p. 165)

"Anathema" -'accursed' (NASV), 331. anathema an-ath'-em-ah; from 394; a (religious) ban or (concretely) excommunicated (thing or person): -accused, anathema, curse, X great. ( Gal_1:8-9 ; 1Co_16:22 ) 'Set apart to destruction and so separated from Christ' (Vincent p. 100)

'But there is in him the heart of a Moses who felt so strongly about the Israelites that he wished to be cut off ( Exo_32:30-32 ). There is in him the heart of the Christ who radically longed for the salvation of his people to the point of laying down his life for them.'

***The Christian Church would never lack converts if all its members or even its ministers felt for their friends and fellow countrymen the deep concern expressed by the apostle Paul for his kinsmen the Jews. (Erdman p. 111)

***Do we even feel this way toward our own brethren?

Verse 4

Rom_9:4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

'Israelites' -a name of distinction, 'Israel goes back to Jacob whose name God changed to "Israel" ( Gen_32:28 ) ("Contender with God") in honor of his prevailing faith which would not let God go until God had blessed him.' (Lenski p. 584)

'adoption' -God chose this nation as a people for His own possession ( Exo_4:22-23 ; Exo_19:5 ff; Amo_3:2 ; Deu_14:1-2 ).

'and the glory' -the visible, luminous appearance of the Divine Presence was called by the Israelites the glory of Jehovah, or, in rabbinical phrase, the Shekinah. ( Exo_24:16 ; Exo_40:34-35 ; 1Ki_8:10-11 ) (Vincent p. 100)

'and the covenants' -the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the covenant made at Sinai, the covenant made with the ancestors of Aaron (priests), the covenant made with David, etc.. ( Exo_29:9 ; Deu_29:1-29 /30; Jos_24:25 ; 2Sa_7:12-17 )

'giving of the law' -'Had there ever been an incident like Sinai in the history of the world? What a moment! What a demonstration! What a privilege! (McGuiggan p. 284) ( Deu_4:7-8 'Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgements as righteous as this whole law...?' 4:32-33 'Has anything been done like this great thing..has ANY PEOPLE heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire...and survived?'

'and the service of God' -the whole sacrificial and priestly system. ( Heb_9:1 )

'and the promises' -the collective messianic promises (Vincent p. 101)

Verse 5

Rom_9:5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

'fathers' -the three pre-eminent 'fathers', were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ( Exo_3:6 ; Exo_3:13 ; Exo_3:15 ; Exo_4:5 ) 'The greatness of its ancestry (not to mention the 'heros of Heb_11:1-40 ') ennobled Israel, and made its position in Paul's time harder to understand and to endure. Who could think without the keenest pain of the sons of such fathers forfeiting everything for which the fathers had been called?'

'and of whom is Christ' -the crowning glory.

'as concerning the flesh' -'on His human side, as far as pertains to His human body' (Alford p. 920)

'There are those who say Paul didn't bother identifying the earthly Christ; that he was only interested in the "Christ of faith". That view won't account for this text or a dozen others..Here is the pinnacle of all the privileges enumerated. God chose to enter the world through the Jewish line!'

'Who is over all' -He may be the Jewish Messiah but he has been given authority over all the nations. ( Psa_2:1-12 ; Isa_11:1-16 ; Mat_28:18 ; Eph_1:21-22 )

'God blessed forever' -many feel that this last phrase applies to Jesus. 'The Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever', i.e. Christ is God (Vincent p. 101) 'Christ, an Israelite according to the flesh, is Lord of all, God blessed forever, to which we, like Paul, add an emphatic "amen". (Lenski p. 589)

Verse 6

Rom_9:6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:

"word of God hath come to nought" -'has failed' (NASV); 'It doesn't mean God failed to do what He said' (Beck). The fact that millions of Jews (when Paul wrote) stood outside of Christ, still unblessed, would cause some to think that all the promises that God gave to Israel had failed. 'If the promises of God were really made to physical Jews by a faithful God why didn't they all have them?' (McGuiggan p. 286)

'For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel' -'Not everybody that is descended from Israel really belongs to Israel' (Wms)

'He is clearing up what may cause a difficulty for earnest Christians when they look at the position assigned to Israel in God's Word and yet see that Israel is lost. They may think that the Word of God has dropped away, that the outcome with regard to Israel proves it to be unreliable, non-dependable. Such would be mistaken regarding Israel and regarding the Word: regarding Israel because it does not include all the physical descendants of Abraham; regarding the Word because this is promise and itself excludes unbelief and unbelievers.'


'What he doesn't suggest is: "The answer to your problem will be given a few thousand years from now when God will bring the bulk of a whole generation of Jews to faith and consequently to salvation (there are those who insist that Paul proves God's faithfulness in Chapter 11 by speaking of the coming glorious conversion of a very large number of unbelieving Jews). That would have been no answer at all. He had a present problem; one right in front of him . What about those unblessed Jews in Paul's day (and before?) Did the Word of God come to nought in respect to them? Never! Shall we say the promises were not addressed to them? We can't do that (9:3-5; Act_3:25-26 ; Act_13:32 ). We must insist with Paul that the real heirs are faithful physical Jews. ' The same is true with the rest of the world. God offers salvation to all men ( 1Jn_2:1-2 ; 1Ti_4:10 ; Mar_16:15 ). But only those who manifest 'faith' actually inherit the blessing. ( Gal_3:26-28 )

Verse 7

Rom_9:7 neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Here is Paul's first proof that inheriting the promises of God, were never based on 'sole physical descent'. For even the Jewish people accepted this fact. Abraham had other children (Ishmael-one physically descended from Abraham), who weren't regarded as true children of Abraham (i.e. those that would inherit God's promises to Abraham).

'thy seed be called' -means 'shall be acknowledged' by God really to be seed for thee (Lenski p. 592).

Verse 8

Rom_9:8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.

'children of the flesh' -i.e. Ishmael and other children of Abraham ( Gen_25:1-6 ). 'It signifies that not mere bodily descent from Abraham makes one a child of God--that was never the case, not even in Abraham's time.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 659) John the Baptist taught the same thing ( Mat_3:9 ; being descended from Abraham, didn't help the rich man- Luk_16:25 'Abraham said, Child..'; Paul had already touched upon this subject ( Rom_2:28-29 ; see also Gal_3:26-28 ; Gal_4:21-31 )

'children of the promise' -'Promise' stresses the gracious nature of the whole thing.

'reckoned for a seed' -'are regarded as descendants' (NASV); 'are reckoned as his true offspring' (Mof)

Verse 9

Rom_9:9 For this is a word of promise, According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

'this is' -'this is what the promise said' (Gspd). ( Gen_18:10 ) Indicating that the 'child' of promise was Isaac.

Verse 10

Rom_9:10 And not only so; but Rebecca also having conceived by one, even by our father Isaac--

'And not only so' -'Nor is that all' (TCNT). 'Paul had said plenty already but there was more to come. Suppose it were possible to get around the Ishmael rejection by claiming he was illegitimate, what of the two sons of Isaac? The same two issues are raised again; fleshly connection isn't the whole issue ..'

'by one, even by our father Isaac' -though one father. 'So the Jewish objectors can't claim illegitimacy here. God chose between two people from the very same family' (McGuiggan p. 289)

Verse 11

Rom_9:11 for the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,

'being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad' -'Nor is the Jew able to claim that Esau was rejected because of his profanity in selling his birthright for the choice was made by God before the children were even born.' (McGuiggan p. 290)

Point to Note: Some people start thinking 'predestination' when they read this section and what follows. Paul's point isn't to teach that God predestinates people to heaven or hell. But rather: The receiving of God's promises, even in the past, WAS NEVER SOLELY BASED ON PHYSICAL TIES. A true physical descendent of Abraham was excluded from the 'promised line' (i.e. Esau). But this doesn't mean that Esau (or Ishmael) couldn't please God. (God also excluded Melchizedek from the promised 'line',(i.e. God chose the descendants of Abraham to be His people rather than the offspring of Melchizedek) and yet Melchizedek still found favor with God).

Paul is 'cutting out ground' from underneath those that thought a relationship with God (inheriting the promises) was somehow based on physical descent or merit. 'The factors being discussed (descent/merit) were the very things the Jew kept claiming as the ground of his special relationship with God. He has learned that "flesh of Abraham" is a lame argument.' (McGuiggan p. 290)

'according to election might stand' -'in order to carry out God's purpose of selection, which depends not on what men do (merit) but on his calling them' (Gspd)

'stand' -abide, continue, remain unchanged. The unchangeableness of purpose was conveyed in His declaration to Rebecca, 'The older shall serve the younger' (9:12)

'not of works' -clearly, from what we know about Jacob, Jacob didn't "merit/deserve" his being selected by God.

In all of this remember: Receiving the promises of God has never been based solely on physical descent or 'merit'. But that doesn't mean that all of God's promises are unconditional. Receiving the promised salvation is: ( Rom_1:16 ; Rom_9:30 ; Rom_9:32 ; Rom_10:4 ; Rom_10:9-10 ; Mar_16:16 )

Verse 12

Rom_9:12 it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. ( Gen_25:23 )

Verse 13

Rom_9:13 Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. ( Mal_1:2 )


We are making a grave mistake if we take this section of Scripture as teaching that God predestined Esau to be a God-hated, eternally dammed man, without any choice of his own.

1. The 'hate' of Mal_1:2 , is to 'love less' ( Mat_10:37 ; Luk_14:26 ). God had demonstrated greater love for Jacob's descendants in the sense of allowing them to remain a people, and to be allowed to come back and dwell in their homeland (such would not be the case of Esau's descendants). Even though both nations had merited destruction.

2. To apply these verses to the eternal salvation to two individuals doesn't fit the context. For one thing, 'the elder shall serve the younger', refers to the status of their descendants (the nations that would issue from Jacob and Esau- 1Ch_18:12-13 ). This wasn't true concerning the individuals Jacob and Esau. Actually, Jacob was more of a servant of Esau ( Gen_32:1-32 ; Gen_33:1-20 ). 'For as individuals Jacob came nearer serving Esau' (Whiteside p. 200)

'It is worthy of note that after Esau has been rejected as the chosen vessel to bring forth the Messiah and so have the place of honor before God, he is blessed by faith by Isaac ( Heb_11:20 ). So whatever the rejection means we must not make Esau into a God-hated, eternally dammed man. What we say of Esau, we must say of all his descendants: And whatever we say of the choice of Jacob we must say of all his descendants.'

3. Right here, reading 'Calvinistic Predestination' into these verses contradicts Paul's whole point. For in selecting Jacob, many of Jacob's descendants still ended up lost! (The very problem being dealt with in this chapter! 9:1,31/10:1-3)

'It is rather odd that this chapter should be used to prove salvation by election when, so far as it bears on election at all, it is wholly an effort to justify God in casting off an elect people (Jews that refused to believe) and choosing an non-elect people (believing Gentiles)'

God excluded various individuals from the 'covenant of promise' (i.e. Ishmael, Esau, Melchizedek), but not from salvation! Paul said that Gentiles had been excluded from the 'covenants of promise' ( Eph_2:12 ), but that didn't mean they were automatically excluded from salvation. We know that believing Gentiles in ancient times were justified (Rahab and Ruth come to mind). Paul agreed ( Rom_2:26 ).

'God had made a distinction between children of the same father and different mothers. He had made a distinction between children of the same father and mother. Even while they were in the womb. And it is this kind of activity by God that justifies his making the point that it wouldn't be surprising that He would make a distinction between Jew and Jew .'

***Remember: The 'Distinction' between Jew and Jew is a distinction that each Jew had 'personal control over', i.e. faith would be the dividing line. (9:32) Like in the past, God had removed privileges from the ground of 'who you were related to', or 'what you had merited'. The same is true with salvation. It's not based on physical ties or what you have earned. Rather it is based on an obedient faith.

Verse 14

Rom_9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

'What shall we say then? -five times already in this Epistle he has asked this question. (3:5;4:1;6:1;7:7;8:31)

Paul anticipates an objection here. The objection might be that those of a Jewish background had a difficult time accepting the fact that 'earning/meriting' God's favor wasn't in there somewhere. They forgot that mankind isn't divided into two groups (the worthy and unworthy/the guilty and the innocent), but mankind is one group (the guilty-3:23). People 'earn' only condemnation (6:23).

'Is there unrighteousness with God?' -'Does this mean God is unjust' (Beck)

Verse 15

Rom_9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.

'For he saith to Moses' -'His argument rests on a double assumption; first, that God is truly represented in the Scripture, and, second, the Scripture everywhere represents him as just, holy and perfect'.

***How many people try to claim that God is somehow 'different' from the picture of Him in the Bible?***

'I will have mercy' - Exo_33:19 .

Don't make the mistake of thinking that Paul is here saying, 'God extends mercy to predestinated individuals only'. Such is not the case, because the message that reveals God's mercy is sent out to all. ( Mat_28:19-20 ). Even in the O.T., God's mercy did have some conditions ( Exo_20:6 ). 'Physical lineage' and 'earning' are not the conditions for receiving God's mercy, but 'obedient faith', has always been! (5:1-2; 1:17)

Verse 16

Rom_9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.

-'it is not a question of human will or effort' (Mof), 'not on human wishes or human efforts' (TCNT). Again, don't get the idea that you don't have to obey God. The stress here is that receiving God's mercy isn't dependant upon how bad you think you deserve it or how hard you are trying to earn it. You cannot 'extort' mercy from God! 'Mercy is not extorted from God by the will of man or the performance of man' (McGuiggan p. 294). You cannot 'disobey' your way into God's mercy (10:1-3), neither can you 'earn your way in', or 'merit/deserve' your way in. An obedient faith in Christ is the only way in! (5:1-2)

'All of this must have had an awful ring for the Jew who felt God was obligated to him. It must have an awful ring for the moral or religious among us today for we are prone to feel that our religiosity and moral performance merit something. I mean, it's not as though God were being kind to moral riff-raff when he is being kind to us. Right?! Hmmmm.'

Verse 17

Rom_9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.

'For' -'Paul goes further, and explains the contrary phenomenon--that of a man who does not and cannot receive mercy.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 662)

But another point may be under consideration. Pharaoh is an example of someone selected to fulfill God's purposes (9:17), just like the nation of Israel had been (9:5). But being 'used' in God's plan, didn't mean 'automatic salvation' to those so used. Pharaoh could of glorified God by bowing to God's power and voluntarily letting Israel go, but he chose another route.

'For this very purpose did I raise thee up' -(9:16 'allowed you to remain'). 'The Exodus passage seems to be saying God has been sustaining Pharaoh through six terrible plagues so as to draw the lesson out. (Moses had been asked by Pharaoh: "Who is Jehovah?" and Moses signed him up for a 10-lesson course.) God could have slain Pharaoh immediately but preferred to make the lesson a prolonged one for its teaching value.'

'The reference may be not merely to God's raising up Pharaoh to be king, but to His patience in preserving him alive, in spite of his disobedience.'

'that I might show in thee my power' -'in showing my power in dealings with thee' (TCNT).

'that my name might be published abroad' -( Exo_15:14 ff; Jos_2:10 ; Jos_9:9 ; 1Sa_4:8 ), for the effect produced on other nations by the news of the Exodus and attendant events. (Bruce p. 194)


1. Pharaoh didn't have to resist God's will. Even wicked, rebellious, and head-strong people can change when confronted with God. ( Eze_18:21-23 ; Jon_3:4-10 ; 1Ti_1:13-16 ; 1Co_6:9-11 )

2. God's will could have been worked out in two ways. Pharaoh could have submitted to God, and everyone would have heard that the 'great king of Egypt' even bows before the God of Israel (God is glorified, His name is published), or, Pharaoh could foolishly resist, and God could destroy Egypt to the point that Pharaoh would be forced to let Israel go (God is glorified).

3. Even here, in dealing with a rebellious man, God demonstrates tremendous mercy and forbearance. God allows this man to survive through ten plagues, to give him the opportunity to repent. ( Rom_2:4-5 ; Exo_10:3 )

Verse 18

Rom_9:18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth.

God chose the message of salvation (it's conditions and contents). Mercy will be extended to those that exercise obedient faith in Christ ( Mar_16:16 ); all that can't handle that, or don't like it, will be 'hardened'.

And how does God harden? It is the result of God deliberately forcing a person to choose..(God gave Pharaoh a command that Pharaoh didn't like (but Pharaoh could of obeyed it, he was able but unwilling), God kept pressing the issue, and Pharaoh kept refusing. The Bible points out that Pharaoh 'hardened his own heart' (8:15,32; 9:34), it reminds us that Pharaoh was a willing contributor to his stubbornness . "It is well within God's right to demand obedience of ANY MAN. It is God's right to demand obedience of any man even if he knows that that man will not obey . It is never unjust of God to demand obedience of one of his subjects.'

But someone might say, 'But why did God pick on "this" particular Pharaoh?' (1) Being 'picked on' can result in my salvation. God 'picked on' the people of Nineveh, they repented! ( Jon_3:1-10 ). God 'picked on Saul', and he became a Christian! ( Act_9:1-43 ) (2) In the final analysis, God picks on everyone in one degree or another (God picked on you when someone confronted you with the truth and challenged your former view of life). The question isn't, 'It's not fair that God picked on me', but rather, 'How am I going to respond to the commandments of my Creator?' ( Mat_28:19-20 )

In fact, we might also add, that a number of times, what seemed to make Pharaoh more stubborn, was when God showed Pharaoh some mercy. ( Exo_8:28 ; Exo_9:27 ; Exo_10:24 ; Exo_8:15 'but when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart..'). Some people grow more stubborn when it seems that God is slow in exercising his wrath.

Verse 19

Rom_9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?

'Why doth he still find fault?' -this seems to be an argument that is raised that says, 'If God is glorified by our disobedience, if His will is still accomplished, then how can he blame us or hold us accountable for our sins?'

'Just because God is capable of working his will out of the rebellion of man is no ground for excusing man's rebellion ( Isa_10:5 ff)'

Verse 20

Rom_9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

'Nay but, O man' -'Nay, but who are you, a mere man' (Wey)

'Repliest against' -lit., to contradict in reply; to answer by contradicting, the spirit of contention. (Vincent p. 106) The present tense--go on answering back to, i.e. engage in quarrelling. (Lenski p. 619) Skeptics constantly reason about God in this arrogant way. (p. 618)

'It is the reply of a wicked man who is now denying God's right to use evil for his holy ends. It is a wicked man saying (in essence) that God has no right to make use of him (or his wickedness) without crediting him with doing God's will . It is as if he were saying: "God has no right to use me and then punish me since I carried out his purposes. I mustn't be used this way. I have rights".'

Note: This isn't talking about predestinating someone to eternal damnation, regardless of our own choices. That would be something to protest about!

Verse 21

Rom_9:21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?

'As clay belongs to the potter so people belong to God. And God has a right to work with men as he sees fit.' (McGuiggan p. 297). Note this illustration is from Jer_18:1-12 . A text that doesn't teach predestination, but rather 'free-will'. (18:7-11) 'The potter takes the clay as he finds it , but uses it as he wishes' (Robertson p. 384)

Verse 22

Rom_9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction:

'Willing to show his wrath' -i.e. against sin, God isn't indifferent to sin! ( Rom_1:18 )

'Endured with much longsuffering' -'bore most patiently with' (TCNT); 'has tolerated most patiently' (Mof).

'But how can anyone accuse God of injustice in view of the way he actually has dealt with men? He had been patient and long-suffering toward his impenitent people, Israel..'

'Vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction' -ready, ripe for judgement. (Vincent p. 107) Perfected, made quite fit or ripe ( 2Ti_3:17 ) (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 664)

Other Scriptures reveal that one ends up 'ripe for judgement', through their own foolish and selfish choices, and then only compounds such by refusing to repent. ( Rom_2:4-5 ; Eph_2:1-3 ; 1Th_2:15-16 ; 2Ti_2:19-22 ) Such was the case of Pharaoh, and such was to be the case of the unbelieving Jews ( 1Th_2:15-16 ; Mat_23:32-39 )

'It might occur to the protesting Jew to make the point that God's longsuffering with the Jew proves God is still (and has always been) in favor with the Jew Paul is excluding. But longsuffering is to lead to repentance (2:4f; 2Pe_3:9 ) and if that doesn't follow it only serves to highlight the JUSTNESS OF THE WRATH. (What a disgusting thing it would be to say: "Isn't God wonderful for enduring those he eternally predestined to damnation (i.e. vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?!)'

Verse 23

Rom_9:23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,

"afore prepared unto glory" -no predestination here. Glory is only for those that 'endure' (8:17; 2Ti_2:12-13 )

"Prepared" -when I accept the gospel call (9:24); I become a vessel that God exercises mercy upon. God planned that he would save man 'in Christ' ( Eph_1:4 ), and when I choose Christ, I get to share this 'before prepared' glory.

'that he might' -'And He did so in order that He might' (NASV). Thank God for His patience! Thank God that God didn't wipe the often rebellious Jewish nation off the face of the earth! (Through them came the Messiah-9:5) God's patience with self-made ungrateful and evil men, enabled Christ to come, die, and rise again, so that this wonderful message could be preached to all.

All of this section reveals a great truth about all the judgements in the O.T. (the flood, the various times that the Israelites were punished ( 1Co_10:5-11 ), the judgements that came upon heathen nations, all these judgements that skeptics and unbelievers complain about ('The God of the O.T. was cruel', etc..) were judgements tempered with MERCY! Man 'deserved' much more severity! Yea, 23,000 Israelites fell in one day ( 1Co_10:8 ), but due to the mercy of God, many others that 'deserved' a like fate, didn't!

Verse 24

Rom_9:24 even us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

'even us' -Christians are people that have experienced God's mercy.

'whom he also called' -i.e. through the gospel ( 2Th_2:14 ); a call sent to all ( Mar_16:15 ). But only those that 'accept' this call become 'vessels of mercy' ( Mat_22:14 ; Act_2:38 ; Act_2:41 ).

'not from the Jews only' -since salvation isn't based on physical ancestry or 'merit', Jews as well as Gentiles could be 'called'.

Verse 25

Rom_9:25 As he saith also in Hosea, I will call that my people, which was not my people; And her beloved, that was not beloved.

Verse 26

Rom_9:26 And it shall be, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, There shall they be called sons of the living God.

Paul quotes from Hos_2:23 ; Hos_1:10 :

1. Here is proof from the very Scriptures that the Jewish people possessed which had said, a 'not my people', would become 'sons of God', i.e. the people of God.

By the way this is a great passage against predestination. For if God has from eternity already selected and known the specific individuals that He wanted saved, then the 'sons of God', have never been a 'no people'. (See also 1Pe_2:9-10 ; Eph_2:12-13 , i.e. predestinated people never would of been in a 'no-hope' condition).

2. Some commentators argue that these verses in Hosea actually applied to the Jews. The Jews of the northern kingdom had forfeited their status as the people of God by their ungodliness. That Paul's argument here is that the O.T. even taught that the Jews were in need of mercy too! 'The ten tribes, by their lapse into idolatry had put themselves upon the same footing with the Gentiles' (Vincent p. 109) Paul agreed with such a principle- Rom_2:25 .

I think the above view has some merit when considering the following points:

a. Paul didn't have to prove that Gentiles needed mercy, everyone conceded that point.

b. The real issue that Paul is dealing with, is the point that every descendant of Abraham isn't a real Jew. (9:6) The verses in 9:25-29, certainly prove this point. (1) Hosea had actually called descendants of Abraham to be 'not God's people' (2) Isaiah taught that only a remnant of the vast Jewish nation would actually be saved (9:27).

Verse 27

Rom_9:27 And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel, If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved:

'Crieth' -an impassioned utterance (Vincent p. 109). Isaiah cries in anguish over the outlook of Israel, but sees hope for the remnant. (Robertson p. 385)

'remnant' -2640. kataleimma kat-al'-ime-mah; from 2641; a remainder, i.e. (by implication) a few: -remnant.

1. Paul's doctrine, that every Jew isn't a true Jew, is supported by the O.T. prophets. A verse (9:27) that agrees with 9:24. Salvation belonged to objects of mercy 'called' out of the Jewish nation, as well as Gentile nations.

2. 'The Jews wished to know how Paul can dare limit salvation to a remnant of Israel since the whole of Israel was elected and he (in essence) says: "This isn't my story! This is Hosea's and Isaiah's! The general election (selecting) of Israel as a nation didn't guarantee them a saving relationship with God back in Isaiah's day.'

Verse 28

Rom_9:28 for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short.

'finishing it and cutting it short' - ( Isa_10:22-23 ), 'thoroughly and quickly' (NASV); Bringing that to an issue, winding up (Lenski p. 631) 'Because of their unbelief, God would cut off his people, exercising sharp and decisive sentence upon them.' (Erdman p. 120). The remnant would be saved, the unbelievers punished. In Isaiah's day Israel would be punished by the Assyrians. In like manner, the good and honest hearts in Judaism had come to Christ ( Act_6:7 ) (a remnant), the rest would face judgement in A.D. 70. God moved quickly.

Verse 29

Rom_9:29 And, as Isaiah hath said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We had become as Sodom, and had been made like unto Gomorrah.

'as Isaiah' - Isa_1:9

'Sabaoth' -4519. sabaoth sab-ah-owth'; of Hebrew origin [6635 in feminine plural]; armies; sabaoth (i.e. tsebaoth), a military epithet of God: -sabaoth. i.e. the Lord of the heavenly hosts. The commander in chief of the armies of heaven that no human power can stand against successfully.

'a Seed' -i.e. the remnant in verse 27. This verse proves that the vast majority in the Jewish nation, was never true to God. For Isaiah says, that without this remnant of the faithful, God would of wiped us out long ago. We would have become a 'second' Sodom and Gomorrah (i.e. cities wiped off the face of the earth, absolutely nothing left of them). For want of 10 righteous people ( Gen_18:32 ), these cities were doomed.

Verse 30

Rom_9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:

'followed not after' -people who hadn't made righteousness their chief concern in life (in the past).( Isa_65:1 'I permitted myself to be sought by those who did not ask for me'). The contrast here is on a national scale, as a whole Israel had always been a religious nation. The Gentiles 'on a whole', had been people which had little to do with such spiritual pursuits. And yet such people who seemed to be so unconcerned about 'righteousness', flocked to it when it was introduced to them. ( Act_13:48 ; Act_17:12 ; Act_18:6-8 )

Verse 31

Rom_9:31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.

'law of righteousness' -'seeking justification by law' (Nor); 'righteousness which is based on law' (RSV); 'a Law that could give righteousness' (Wey). Here the mentality of the Jewish nation is stressed. Many Jews were looking for a Law, the keeping of which would bring a right standing with God.

'did not arrive at that law' -since no one can keep the law perfectly (3:23); they failed to achieve a law-based right standing with God. Not that law isn't important, but rather, the Jew wanted to 'base' his acceptance with God on the merits of his law-keeping ability. And all such efforts have failed. The Jewish nation forgot about 'trust, faith'. As one writer said, 'Paul will go on to show that the only reason Israel didn't attain to what they were looking for was because THEY REFUSED TO ACCEPT THEMSELVES AS OBJECTS OF MERCY' (i.e. objects needing God's mercy, and hence the need for faith) (McGuiggan p. 302)

Verse 32

Rom_9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;

'Wherefore?' -'Why was this' (Knox)

'Because they sought it not by faith' -'Because their efforts were not based on faith' (NEB)

Their whole religious attitude was that they thought they could put God under obligation to save them by means of their moral performance, what they did, and who they were related to. Throughout the O.T. with find the Jewish nation demonstrating this attitude. They wanted to 'trust' in Assyria or Egypt, in their own ingenuity, foreign militarism, alliances, tribute to other nations and the gods of other nations. The one object of trust that they couldn't seem to allow themselves to believe in, was God. Do we ever demonstrate the same type of failure to trust in God? Do we find ourselves thinking, 'God is nice for Sunday morning, but when I am in trouble, in "real life", God isn't very useful. In those times, one must be realistic and rely on other things.'

'They stumbled at the stone of stumbling' -i.e. Jesus Christ ( Mat_21:42-45 ; Act_4:10-11 ; 1Pe_2:6-8 ).

Verse 33

Rom_9:33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.

'as it is written' - Isa_28:16

This failure to trust God, had manifested itself in the rejection of the Son of God. 'When Jehovah manifested himself in Christ the spirit of the Jew was no different. ( Act_7:51-52 ) To save themselves, the Jews made a covenant with death ( Act_2:23 ; Joh_11:47-50 ) and used Roman power in an attempt to gain their ends.'

'I lay..a stone' -as God had been the only true foundation for His people in the O.T., Jesus Christ would be the only true foundation for those in the N.T.

'A rock of offence' -this verse is interesting. Reading it carefully you find that the verse is saying, 'The only people that God "offends" are those that can't bring themselves to trust in Him, i.e. people that refuse to see themselves as needing His mercy!'-WOW AND OUCH!

'shall not be put to shame' -Jesus has never failed those who put their trust in Him! But everyone else, will be ashamed of what they 'trusted' in. ( Mat_7:24 ff)

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/romans-9.html. 1999-2014.
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