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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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This is one of the places where the chapter division is injudiciously made, breaking the subject in two in the middle.

Verse 1

1. “I speak the truth, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness in the Holy Ghost.” Paul had the approval of his conscience while, unconverted, he persecuted the saints. Then his conscience bore him witness, but not in the Holy Ghost. Though the conscience survived the Fall, God’s telephone to speak to the soul, without which man never could be saved, but must go like the fallen angels; yet it is not a safe guide unless regenerated by the Holy Ghost, but is very likely to be usurped by Satan, who is fond of speaking through God’s telephone and thus passing himself for God. For that reason the leading preachers in the Jewish Church murdered Jesus, and have martyred the saints in the fallen churches of all ages. They follow their consciences, which are manipulated by the devil and an unsafe guide. It bears them witness, but not in the Holy Ghost, as they are strangers to Him.

Verse 3

3. “For I could wish that I were a Sin-offering from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kindred according to the flesh.” This verse in E. V. has led to the conclusion that Paul was willing to give up his interest in Christ and lose his soul for the salvation of the Jews. That is altogether a mistake. He simply states that he would gladly suffer martyrdom, as Christ had, in order to save them. “Accursed,” in E. V., is anathema, from ana, “upon,” and titheemi “place.” Hence it originally means “an offering,” and became applied to a sin-offering, in that sense being applied to Christ, who had a perfect right to let him die a martyr to save the Jews, or live to preach the gospel. He here assures us that he would gladly lay down his life for the Jews if Christ should so order.

Verses 4-10

4-10. He here recapitulates the signal and extraordinary blessings which God conferred on the Jews, and bewails their apostasy, at the same time observing that the true Israel were in harmony with Christ, representing the seed of Abraham.


If you do not recognize and keep before you this distinction, you get much tangled in both Testaments. While the election of grace determinative of heaven or hell is optionary with man, that of the progenitorship was utterly independent of human volition, absolute and unchangeable in this sense. The Jews were elected and the Gentiles reprobated; Isaac elected and Ishmael reprobated, and Jacob elected and Esau reprobated.

Verse 11

11. “For the children not having yet been born, nor done anything good nor evil, in order that the purposes of God may stand according to election, not of works but of him that calleth.” This was because Jacob was elected to the progenitorship before he was born, and Esau reprobated from the same. Yet the atonement was as free and efficacious for Esau as for Isaac, for the Arabs as the Jews.

Verse 12

12. “It was said to her that the elder shall serve the younger.” While this primarily means the election of Isaac to the progenitorship, and the reprobation of Esau to the same, it has here a potent symbolic meaning which is not to be overlooked, i. e., that the old Adamic nature in us is to serve the new creature imparted by the Holy Ghost in regeneration. The word “serve” means a slave, involving the perfect submission of the old man.

Verse 13

13. “As has been written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” This is the language of Malachi 1:2-3, five hundred years after the time of these men. Hence it does not apply to these men personally, but representatively to Israel, a godly people, and the Edomites, very wicked idolators.

Verse 14

14. “Then what shall we say? Is there Unrighteousness with God? It could not be so.

Verse 15

15. “For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I do have mercy, and will compassionate whom I do compassionate” (Exodus 3:19). This progenitorship was a great and signal mercy, yet it did not exclude the reprobated from grace and glory but does imply from a place in the honored Messianic progenitorship.

Verse 16

16. “Then therefore it is not of him that willeth nor him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy.” This progenitorship, the greatest blessing this side of heaven, was bestowed on Abraham and his seed by the sovereign discriminating mercy of God. Yet while it was special to Abraham and his seed, instead of excluding all others from the kingdom of grace and glory, it was the provision of God’s redeeming love for the whole human race.

Verse 17

17. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, that for this very thing have I raised thee up, that I may show forth my power in thee, in order that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” At that time Pharaoh was absolute monarch of the only organized government on the globe. He built the pyramids, the world’s greatest wonder to this day; there being no mechanical powers on the earth at the present day competent to erect them.

It has been estimated that it would take twenty thousand men one hundred years to build Cheops. When I climbed to the top and stood on its pinnacle, five hundred and fifty feet above the earth, and looked down the huge mass covering thirteen acres of ground, I no longer doubted the estimate. God did not mock Pharaoh. He sent him His two best preachers, Moses and Aaron, to preach the gospel. to him that he might be saved. Of course the gospel resisted hardened his heart, as in every other case. The same sun that softens the wax, hardens the clay; so the same gospel that saves those who receive it, hardens and augments the damnation of all who reject it. Hence souls lost in Christendom reach a hotter hell than the heathens. If Pharaoh had been converted, he was the very man to glorify God in all the earth, by sending the gospel to the ends of the earth. He had the men and the money, and was competent to preach the gospel and proclaim the true God in all the earth. Pharaoh did like millions of other sinners, rejected the gospel and plunged into ruin for time and eternity, defeating the purposes of God for which He had raised him up, that he might be converted under the preaching of Moses and Aaron and preach the gospel of God’s truth and righteousness to all the earth.

Verse 20

20. “O vain man, who art thou that repliest against God? Whether shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?

Verse 21

21. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?” The removal of the clay from the bank to the pottery is regeneration. The purification of the lay from all trash, pebbles and foreign materials, by desiccation, commination and sifting, is sanctification. The diversified work in the formation of the vessel is character building; while the final ornamentation, putting on the beautiful gloss, is glorification. Timee, “honor,” here means financial remuneration; while “dishonor” means no financial value. Since the potter, like all other mechanics, simply prosecutes his employment for the money that is in it, he invaritably sets out to make an honorable vessel. Why does he fail?

Because, after he has done his best, the clay mars in his hand so that the vessel is spoiled and utterly worthless, consequently he casts it away into the ditch, as it is a well-known fact that these marred vessels can not be worked over. They are actually fit for nothing. If you put them on the turnpike pike, they will dissolve and become mud. Hence the potter always throws them away as utterly worthless. Now let us make the application. When God sets out to make a man, He invariably proposes to make a good one. Why does He not succeed, since He is Omnipotent? It is not a mere question of power. The human will is involved. If your will falls in line and reciprocates God’s will, He is certain to make you a vessel to honor, just as the potter always does his best to make a good, sound vessel that will be current in the market, but, despite all he can do, the vessel mars in his hands and turns out a failure. Even so, while God is doing His best to make a good man, your will antagonizes His will till the vessel is spoiled. Then He can only leave you for Satan’s heap of rubbish, tumbled down into hell. If God were to ignore your free will, He would dehumanize you. He does not want a machine. If he did, He would make it. He wants a man. Hence He can not make you good without the co-operation of your will, lest He unman you. While the potter is doing his best to make an honorable vessel, the clay mars in his hands till the vessel is spoiled. Just so, while God has laid heaven, earth and hell under contribution to make a good man of you, this does not settle the question, because your will is free. If you sink away into the will of God, He is certain to make you a vessel unto honor. If you contravene His will, you will become a vessel unto dishonor, fit only for the ditch of damnation.

Verse 22

22. “But if God, wishing to show forth his indignation and make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath which had been perfected for destruction.” “Fitted,” E. V., which I translate “having been made perfect,” is the identical word constantly translated “perfect,” setting forth Christian perfection. Hence it involves the conclusion that there is a perfecting for destruction as well as salvation. No soul goes to heaven till perfected for glory. Even so no one goes to hell till perfected for damnation. The potter never gives up the vessel while there is hope. God is the Omnipotent. Hence He works on every vessel so long as there is hope. When the human will so contravenes the divine will as to disqualify Omnipotent grace to make you a vessel to honor, then you are perfected for destruction. God is Omniscient. He sees you will never let Him save you. Consequently He lets you drop into hell. There is no other place for you. He has made heaven for you, but you will not let Him love you, consequently you are a vessel unto dishonor perfected for damnation, i. e., ripe for hell.

Verse 23

23. “In order that he may make known the riches of his glory unto the vessels of mercy, which he before prepared unto glory.” “Glory” here means the glorification of spirit, soul and body, which awaits all the saints at the end of this life, spirit and mind being glorified simultaneously with the evacuation of the body, the latter receiving glorification in the resurrection, unless, fortunately, we should be honored with the translation, going up in the rapture “to meet the Lord in the air,” in which case, soul and mind and body will all he glorified at the same time. Hence our entire probationary life here is in the hands of the blessed Potter, who is constantly bringing into availability His Omnipotent grace and merciful Providence to prepare us for glorification in the end, thus perfecting us vessels of honor.

Verses 24-26

24-26. Here Paul speaks of the fact that these vessels of honor are elected both from Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately.

Verse 27

27. “But Isaiah crieth out in behalf of Israel: If the number of the sons of Israel may be as the sands of the sea, the remnant shall be saved.” N. B. Amid the wonderful fulfillment of God’s promises through out both Testaments, to gather the Jews from the ends of the earth and restore them, not only to Palestine but to His covenanted mercy and gracious favor, the “remnant” is everywhere recognized and contemplated, and not the teeming multitudes. The divine election, both on the line of grace and progenitorship, is confined to this remnant. So, while we may confidently rely on the fulfillment of God’s promises to His chosen people, we must not forget that the faithful remnant is the recipient throughout.

Verse 28

28. “For perfecting and cutting it short, the Lord will verify his work upon the earth.” When God’s time comes to restore the Jews, I know He will astonish the world by the miracles of His summary prophetical fulfillments.

Verse 29

29. “And as Isaiah before said: Unless the Lord of hosts left unto us a seed, we were as Sodom and we become like unto Gomorra.” Hence you see that the Jews were neither exterminated nor utterly cast away, God’s merciful eye following the faithful remnant in all their peregrinations upon the face of the whole earth, keeping the covenant which He made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, and finally gathering them back to the land of their holy patrimony.

Verse 30

30. “Then what shall we say? That the Gentile does not following after righteousness received righteousness, and the righteousness which is from faith,” i. e., the true and genuine righteousness, which always saves.

Verse 31

31. “But Israel, following the law, did not attain unto the law of righteousness.” The Jews, like the fallen churches of all ages, retrogressed into the legalistic heresies of seeking salvation by good works, thus deluded by the devil, and going headlong into apostasy and damnation, so blind that they actually killed their own Savior.

Verse 32

32. “Wherefore, because they sought it not by faith, but by works.” The true religion in all ages is salvation by the free grace of God in Christ, received and appropriated by faith alone, without works; while false religions in all ages teach salvation by faith and works, the latter always eclipsing the former and running them into idolatry. “They stumbled over the stone of stumbling,

Verse 33

33. “As has been written: Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he that believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Shame is always the progeny of sin. People are ashamed to pray in public and in their own families and invite the erring to the Savior, looking them boldly in the face. What is the solution? Sin is at the bottom. Get rid of sin and your shame is all gone. Here we see that the Jews, having waited four thousand years for their own Christ, stumbled Over Him, plunging into hopeless ruin. Till Christ came the Jews were normally the true people of God. The ministry of Christ, living and dying, proved the fatal epoch in the apostasy of Israel. Before that epoch the Jewish church was adorned with brilliant examples of holiness. Since that day she exhibits not a solitary light, but goes deeper into the darkness of infidelity and atheism as the ages go by. In a similar manner, Romanism stumbled over Christ preached by Luther and his compeers. Before that day Saint Bernard, Abbey de Rance, Thomas a Kempis and many other exemplars of entire sanctification shone brilliantly in their ranks. But, oh, how dark their escutcheon today, unilluminated by a solitary confessor! In a similar manner the Episcopal Church stumbled Over Christ preached by Wesley and his heroic comrades, plunging into darkness and sinking deeper into worldliness. Oh, what a memorable epoch in the history of the Protestant churches the present Holiness movement is marking! We live in an age of thrilling prophetical fulfillments, when “men will not endure sound doctrine.” God has raised up an army of Holiness people, girdling the globe with the evangelism of Christ, the great Protestant churches in all lands stumbling over Him, as revealed by the Holy Ghost in His Omnipotent, sanctifying power.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/romans-9.html.
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