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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

Introduction to this Topic (Romans 9:1-5)

Too well aware that he was regarded as a traitor to the dearest interests of his people (Acts 21:33; Acts 22:22; Acts 25:24), the apostle opens this division of his subject by giving vent to his real feelings with extraordinary vehemence of protestation.

I say the truth in Christ - as if steeped in the spirit of Him who wept over impenitent and doomed Jeruasalem (cf. Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Philippians 1:8),

I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit - q.d., 'my conscience as quickened, illuminated, and even now under the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.' Doubtless the apostle could speak thus as no uninspired Christian can. At the same time, it should not be forgotten that to speak and act "in Christ," with a conscience not only illuminated, but under the present operation of the Holy Spirit, is not special to the supernaturally inspired, but is the privilege, and ought to be the aim, of every believer.

Verse 2

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow ('great grief and unceasing anguish') in my heart - the bitter hostility of his nation to the glorious Gospel, and the awful consequences of their unbelief, weighing heavily and incessantly upon his spirit. The grace which revolutionized the apostle's religious views and feelings did not (we see) destroy, but only intensified and elevated his natural feelings; and Christians should study to show that the same is true of them also.

Verse 3

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, [ Eeuchomeen (G2172) gar (G1063) autos (G846) egoo (G1473) anathema (G331) einai (G1511) apo (G575) tou (G3588) Christou (G5547) ...-or, better, anathema (G331) einai (G1511) autos (G846) egoo (G1473) etc.]

For ('in behalf of') my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. In proportion as he felt himself spiritually severed from his nation, he seems to have realized all the more vividly his natural relationship to them. Some interpreters, deeming such a wish as is here expressed to be too strong for any Christian to utter, or even conceive, have rendered the opening words, 'I did (once) wish;' understanding it of his former unconverted state. The Old Latin version and the Vulgate revision of it led the way in this wrong direction (optabam), and Pelagius followed. Even Luther fell into this mistake (Ich habe gewunscht). But what sense or force does this interpretation yield? No doubt, when a virulent persecutor of Christians, the apostle had no desire for any connection with Christ, and wished the very name of Christ to perish. But can that be all that is here meant? or even if it were, would the apostle have expressed it in the terms here employed-that he wished, not Christ and Christians accursed, but himself accursed from Christ, and this not for the truth's sake, but for his brethren's sake? It is true that the verb is in the past (the imperfect) tense.

But according to the Greek idiom, the strict meaning of the phrase is, 'I was going to wish, and should have wished, had that been lawful, or could it have done any good (or, according to the English idiom) 'I could have wished.' [See Winer, section 41. a; Donaldson, section426. ff; Hermann, de part. an (G302).; also Fritzsche and DeWette, on this place; and compare the analogous use of the imperfect in Acts 25:22, and Galatians 4:20.] Much also has been written on the word "accursed," to soften its apparent harshness, and represent it as meant only in a modified sense. But if we view the entire sentiment as a vehement or passionate expression of the absorption of his whole being in the salvation of his people, the difficulty will vanish; and instead of applying to this burst of emotion the cold criticism which would be applicable to definite ideas, we shall rather be reminded of the nearly identical wish so nobly expressed by Moses, Exodus 32:32, "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin ... and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." This is what Bacon (quoted by Wordsworth) calls 'an ecstasy of charity and infinite feeling of communion' ('Advancement of Learning').

Verse 4

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Who are Israelites ... [ hoitines (G3748)] - that is, 'Inasmuch as they are.' So Romans 1:25; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:15; Romans 6:2. The connection is this: 'And well may I feel thus toward a people so illustrious for all that can ennoble a people-in their origin, their calling, the exalted trusts committed to them, and that Debt of all debts which the world shall forever owe them, the Birth of its Redeemer from them. "Who are Israelites" - the descendants of him who "had power with God and prevailed," and whose family name "Jacob" was changed into "Israel" (or 'Prince of God'), to hand down through all time this pre-eminent feature in his character (Genesis 32:28). What store the apostle set by this title, as one which he could and did clam, as well as any of those from whom he was now separated in faith, may be seen from Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:5.

To whom pertaineth (more simply, 'whose is') the adoption. This is not to be confounded with the internal, spiritual, vital 'adoption' which flows from union to God's own Son, and which is the counterpart of regeneration. It was a purely external and theocratic, yet real, adoption, separating them by a sovereign act of grace from the surrounding paganism, and constituting them a Family of God. (See Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11:1; Malachi 1:6.) The higher adoption in Christ Jesus is (as Meyer says) but the antitype and completion of this. To belong to the visible Church of God, and enjoy its high and holy distinctions, is of the sovereign mercy of God, and should be regarded with devout thankfulness; and yet the rich enumeration of these, as attaching to a nation at that very time excluding themselves by unbelief from the spiritual and eternal significance of them all, should warn us that the most sacred external distinctions and privileges will avail nothing to salvation without the heart's submission to the righteousness of God (Romans 9:31-33).

And the glory. This is not to be taken in the loose sense which many interpreters give it-the glorious height of privilege, etc., to which they were raised (so Origen, Chrysostom, Bengel, Fritzsche); nor yet (as Calvin, Beza, Grotius) 'the ark of the covenant,' whose capture by the Philistines was felt by the dying wife of Phineas to be "the departure of the glory" (1 Samuel 4:21). With the great majority of good interpreters, we take it to mean that 'glory of the Lord,' or 'visible token of the divine presence in the midst of them,' which rested on the ark and filled the tabernacle during all their wanderings in the wilderness; which in Jerusalem continued to be seen in the tabernacle and temple, and which only disappeared when, at the Captivity, the temple was demolished, and the sun of the ancient economy began to go down. The later Jews gave to this glory the now familiar name of the 'Shechinah' [ Shªkanyaah (H7935), from shaakan (H7931), 'to let one's self down,' and hence, to 'dwell']. (See the note at John 1:14, Commentary, p. 348; also at Acts 7:1; 2 Corinthians 3:7, where "the glory of his (Moses') countenance" means the visible radiance which his nearness to God in the mount left upon his face; and Hebrews 9:5, where "the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat" are so called, to express the radiance which overspread the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, symbolical of the mutual nearness of God and His people through the efficacy of an atoning sacrifice. It was the distinguishing honour of the Israelites that to them only was the whole method of Redemption, and the result of it in the Lord God dwelling among them (Psalms 68:18), disclosed in type; and thus to them pertained "the glory:"

And the covenants. The word is here used in the plural number, not to denote 'the old and the new covenants' (as Augustine, Jerome, and some of the older German divines), for all the things here enumerated belong to the ancient economy; nor 'the tables of the covenant' (as Beza, Grotius, etc.), for that would be to make it the same with the next particular, "the giving of the law;" but the one covenant with Abraham in its successive renewals, to which the Gentiles were "strangers," and which is called (also in the plural) "the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12). See also Galatians 3:6; Galatians 3:17. [Lachmann adopts the singular form of this word ( hee (G3588) diakeekee (G1343)) on the rather weighty authority of B D E F G: the Vulgate (but not Codex Amiat.); and several of the Greek fathers. The Received Text is found in 'Aleph (') C K, and apparently all the cursives; several copies of the Old Latin, the best manuscript of the Vulgate (Amiatinus), both the Syriac and other versions, and the same Greek fathers as are relied on for the singular. And as it would be quite natural to write the word in the singular (though plural in the original), since the thing meant is singular-but certainly not the reverse-Tischendorf and Tregelles rightly here to the plural of the Received Text, as nearly all good critics do.]

And the giving of the law - from mount Sinai, and entrusting that precious treasure to their safe keeping, which the Jews justly regarded as their special honour (Romans 2:17; Deuteronomy 26:18-19; Psalms 147:19-20).

And the service [of God!] - rather, 'the service' [of the sanctuary'], or better, without any supplement, simply, 'the service' [ hee (G3588) latreia (G2999)]; meaning the whole divinely instituted religious service, in the celebration of which they were brought so nigh to God.

And the promises - the great Abrahamic promises, successively unfolded, and which had their fulfillment only in Christ (see Hebrews 7:6; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:21; Acts 26:6-7).

Verse 5

Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Whose are the fathers - here probably the three great fathers of the covenant-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-by whom God condescended to name Himself (Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:13; Luke 20:37).

And (most exalted privilege of all, and as such, reserved to the last) of whom as concerning the flesh (see the note at Romans 1:3 ), Christ [came], [ ex (G1537) oon (G5607) ho (G3588) Christos (G5547)] - or 'of whom is Christ, as concerning the flesh.'

Who is over all, God (rather, 'God over all,') blesses forever. Amen [ ho (G3588) oon (G5607) epi (G1909) pantoon (G3956) Theos (G2316) eulogeetos (G2128) eis (G1519) tous (G3588) aioonas (G165)]. To get rid of the bright testimony here borne to the supreme divinity of Christ, various expedients have been adopted.

(1) Erasmus suggested that a period might be placed after 'of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh;' in which case what follows is a doxology to the Father for such a gift-`He who is over all, God, be blessed forever. This suggestion was approved by the Polish (Socinian) commentator, Enjedin, and it has been followed by Wetstein, Fritzsche, Reiche, Meyer, Jowett. But there are two objections to this: First, That everywhere in Scripture (both in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and in the Greek of the New) the word blessed precedes the name of God, on whom the blessing is pronounced-thus, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel" (Psalms 72:18, and Luke 1:68), "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3, and Ephesians 1:3). Even Socinus admitted this to be a valid objection and it seems to us fatal. But further, when the apostle here says of Christ that He came of the Israelites "as concerning the flesh," we naturally expect, according to his usual style of thought, that the next clause will make some reference to His higher nature. This accordingly he does sublimely, according to the received punctuation of this verse, and the almost universal way of translating and understanding it; but if we adopt the above suggestion of Erasmus-putting a period after 'of whom is Christ according to the flesh'-the statement ends with an abruptness and the thought is broken in a way not usual, certainly, with the apostle. Fritzche and Meyer see no force in this, thinking that a statement of Christ's fleshly descent did not require to be followed up by any allusion to a higher nature. But DeWette admits the force of it. It is further argued (by Stuart, Alford, and others) that the supposed doxology would be out of place, the sad subject on which he was entering suggesting anything but a doxology, even in connection with Christ's Incarnation. But this need not be pressed. Unhappily, both Lachmann and Tischendorf lend their countenance to this interpretation, by placing a period in their texts after the word "flesh" [ sarka (G4561)] - the latter giving as his reason that Christian antiquity did not connect the words "God over all" with Christ, but with the Father. But the passages quoted by him (after Wetstein) to prove this were merely intended to maintain the supremacy of the Father in the one Godhead (against those who confounded the Persons); and the best proof that they were not meant in the sense they are (against those who confounded the Persons); and the best proof that they were not meant in the sense they are quoted for is, that some of those same fathers build an argument for the divinity of Christ on this very passage.

(2) Another expedient, also suggested by Erasmus, was to place a period after the words "over all" (of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is "over all"). In this case these words are indeed made to refer to Christ, but only in this sense, that Christ is "over all" that came before him; and what follows is a doxology, as before, to God the Father-`God be blessed forever.' This was adopted by Locke, and has been followed by DeWette in his translation. But though this does yield a sort of contrast in Christ to His descent from Israel "according to the flesh," it is surely a poor one; the doxology which it yields is (as Meyer truly says) miserably abrupt; and it has the same fatal objection as the former-the wrong placing of the word "blessed." It is a valid objection also to this punctuation, that in that case the word "God" would have required the article [ ho (G3588) Theos (G2316)]. See Middleton's note on this verse.

(3) Failing these two expedients, a conjectural change of the text has been resorted to. Schlicting, another of the Polish (Socinian) commentators, suggested that the Greek words [ ho (G3588) oon (G5607)] should be transposed, and both the accent and breathing of the latter word changed [into oon (G5607) ho (G3588)], making the sense to be 'whose is the Supreme God'-that is, not only does Christ, as concerning the flesh, belong to the Israelites, but theirs also is the God over all. This desperate shift was approved by Crellius (an acute critic of the same Polish school), by Whiston and Taylor of Norwich (well-known Arians of last century), and by Whitby (who sank into Arianism in his later days). But besides the worthlessness of the conjecture itself, conjectural emendations of the text-in the face of all manuscript authority-are now justly banished from the domain of sound criticism.

It remains, then, that we have here no doxology at all, but a naked statement of fact-that while Christ is "of" the Israelite nation, "as concerning the flesh," He is in another respect "God over all, blessed for ever." (In 2 Corinthians 11:31 the very Greek phrase which is here rendered "who is," is used in the same sense; and cf. Romans 1:25, Gr.) In this view of the passage-as a testimony to the supreme divinity of Christ-besides all the orthodox fathers, all the ablest modern critics, with the exception of those above named, concur. 'I, for my part,' says Michaelis (quoted by Middleton) - a critic not overscrupulous in such matters-`sincerely believe that Paul here delivers the same doctrine of the divinity of Christ which is elsewhere unquestionably maintained in the New Testament.' (See also Bengel's and Philippi's unusually long notes on this passage.)

Though Israel after the Flesh has Fallen, the Elect Israel Has Not Failed (Romans 9:6-13)

Lest his readers should conclude, from the melancholy strain of the preceding verses, that that Israel which he had represented as so dear to God, and the object of many promises, had quite failed, the apostle now proceeds to open up an entirely new feature of his subject, which, though implied in all he had written and indirectly hinted at once and again, had not before been formally expounded-the distinction between the nominal and the real, the carnal and the spiritual Israel.

Verse 6

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect, [ ekpeptooken (G1601)] - or 'failed' (as the simple Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect, [ ekpeptooken (G1601)] - or 'failed' (as the simple verb is rendered, Luke 16:17).

For they are not all Israel which are of Israel - better, 'For not all they which are of Israel are Israel'-q.d., 'Think not that I mourn over the total loss of Israel, for that would involve the failure of God's word to Abraham; but not all that belong to the natural seed, and go under the name of "Israel," are the Israel of God's irrevocable choice.' The difficulties which encompass this profound subject of ELECTION lie not in the apostle's teaching, which is plain enough, but in the truths themselves, the evidence for which, taken by themselves, is overwhelming, but whose perfect harmony is beyond human, perhaps even finite, comprehension. The great source of error here lies, as we humbly conceive, in hastily inferring, as too many critics do-from the apostle's taking up, at the close of this chapter, the calling of the Gentiles in connection with the rejection of Israel, and continuing this subject through the two next chapters-that the Election treated of in the body of this chapter is national, not personal Election, and consequently is Election merely to religious advantages, not to eternal salvation. In that case the argument of Romans 9:6 with which the subject of Election opens, would be this: 'The choice of Abraham and his seed has not failed; because though Israel has been rejected, the Gentiles have taken their place; and God has a right to choose what nation He will to the privileges of His visible kingdom.' But so far from this the Gentiles are not so much as mentioned at all until toward the close of the chapter; and the argument of this verse is, that 'all of Israel itself is not rejected, but only a portion of it, the remainder being the "Israel" whom God has chosen in the exercise of His sovereign right.' And that this is a choice not to mere external privileges, but to eternal salvation, will abundantly appear from what follows.

Verse 7

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: - q.d., 'Not in the line of mere fleshly descent from Abraham does the election run; else Ishmael, Hagar's child, and even Keturah's children, would be included, which they were not.'

But (as the promise runs), in Isaac shall thy seed be called (Genesis 21:12). 'On this principle, the true Election consists of such of Abraham's seed as God hath unconditionally chosen.'

Verse 8

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Verse 9

For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

For this is the word of promise ...

Verse 10

And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

And not only [this], or [so]; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac.

Verse 11

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,)

Verse 12

It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

As it is written (Malachi 1:2-3 ), Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. It might be thought that there was a natural reason for preferring the child of Sarah, as being Abraham's true and first wife, both to the child of Hagar, Sarah's maid, and to the children of Keturah, his second wife. But there could be no such reason in the case of Rebecca, Isaac's only wife; for the choice of her son Jacob was the choice of one of two sons by the same mother, and of the younger in preference to the older, and before either of them was born, and consequently before either had done good or evil to be a ground of preference; and all to show that the sole ground of distinction lay in the unconditional choice of God - "not of works, but of Him that calleth." These last words show conclusively the erroneousness of the theory by which some get rid of the doctrine of personal Election in this chapter-namely, that the apostle is treating of the choice, neither of persons nor of nations, but merely of the terms or conditions on which He will save men, and which he has a sovereign right to fix.

For in that case the apostle would have said here, 'That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works-but by faith.' But instead of this, he says, "Not of works (of any merit on our part), but of Him that calleth" - i:e., purely of His own will to call whom He pleaseth. 'It is doing great violence to the meaning (says Olshausen) to refer the 'purpose according to election-which did not depend upon the works that were not in existence, but rested upon the holy will alone of Him who calleth whom He will, Jacob only and not Esau-to refer this purpose (with Beck) simply to the right of primogeniture, or (with Tholuck) to the occupation of the theocratic land.' Though the predictions respecting Jacob and Esau had reference to their posterity, and were fulfilled in them, it is the unconditional choice of the one individual, rather than the other, on which the apostle reasons. 'The word "serve" (Romans 9:1-2) need not be understood (adds Olshausen) of political servitude, but must be referred to a state of spiritual dependence into which Esau was brought by throwing away his birthright, while the stream of grace flowed away to Jacob. All the assurances that to "hate" here does not mean to hate, but only to "love less," or bestow a less advantage, will not satisfy the conscientious expositor, since he cannot overlook the fact that Paul has selected from the passage of Scripture which he quotes a very strong and offensive expression. Nor does it signify that in that passage (Malachi 1:2-3) the immediate question is of outward circumstances, since these also [in the case of such symbolical persons] are to be viewed as expressions of the wrath of God.' Compare a subsequent verse of the same chapter, "The people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever" (Malachi 1:4).

The Righteousness of this Sovereign Procedure (Romans 9:14-24)

This topic is handled in the form of answers to two objections, which are so far from being merely hypothetical, that they have been in every age, and are to this day, the grand, indeed the only plausible, objections to the doctrine of personal Election.

First Objection-`The doctrine-that God chooses one and rejects another, not on account of their works, but purely in the exercise of His own good pleasure-is inconsistent with the justice of God.' The answer to this objection extends to Romans 9:19, where we have a second objection.

Verse 14

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

What shall we say then? (see the note at Romans 6:1 ) Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Here we again quote from Olshausen, whose statement is all the more remarkable from his Lutheran point of view. 'It is only (says that profound and candid critic) in this severe manner of interpretation (understanding the argument to be of personal election to eternal salvation) that the question, "Is there unrighteousness with God?" has any meaning, and that the thrilling answer of Romans 9:15 is at all suitable. The mitigated view of Romans 9:6-13 (supposing them to treat only of national election to external advantages) affords no occasion for such thoughts at all, and therefore the interpreter can in no way evade the stringent connection of thought.' (To the same effect Hodge argues very forcibly.)

Verse 15

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

For he saith to Moses (Exodus 33:19 ), I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, [ eleoo (G1653)] - 'on whom I have mercy,'

And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, [ oikteiroo (G3627)] - 'on whom I have compassion;' q.d., 'There can be no unrighteousness in God's choosing whom He will, for to Moses He expressly claims a right to do so.' Yet it is worthy of notice that this is expressed in the positive rather than the negative form: It is not, 'I will have mercy on none but on whom I will;' but 'I will have mercy on whomsoever I will.' The reader ought not to overlook the principle on which the apostle here argues the question with his readers. 'As when God says a thing it must be true, so when God does a thing it must be right. But God does say He chooses whom He will; therefore it is both true that He does so, and doing it, it cannot but be right.'

Verse 16

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

So then it is not of him that willeth (or hath the inward intention),

Nor of him that runneth (maketh the active exertion): see, for illustration of this phrase, 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 3:14. Both the 'willing' and the 'running' are indispensable to salvation; yet salvation is owing to neither,

But (is purely) of God that showeth mercy. This is strikingly expressed in Philippians 2:12-13: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which, out of His own good pleasure, worketh in you both to will and to do."

Verse 17

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16). Observe here the light in which the Scripture is viewed by the apostle.

Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, [ eis (G1519) auto (G846) touto (G5124) exeegeira (G1825) se (G4571)] - rather, 'saith to Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up.' The apostle had shown that God claims the right to defense whom He will; here he shows by an example that God punishes whom He will. But (as Hodge says) 'God did not make Pharaoh wicked; He only forebore to make him good, by the exercise of special and altogether unmerited grace.'

That I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. It was not that Pharaoh was worse than others, that he was so dealt with, but that his character and position combined rendered him a fit subject for the display, as on a great theater, of God's righteous displeasure against the despisers of His authority, for all time.

Verse 18

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

Therefore hath he (or, 'So then He hath') - the result is that He hath

Mercy on whom he will [have mercy] - rather, 'on whom He will,' without any supplement,

And whom he will he hardeneth - by judicially abandoning them to the hardening influence of sin itself (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28: Psalms 81:11-12; Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 3:8; Hebrews 3:13), and of the surrounding incentives to it (Matthew 24:12; 1 Corinthians 15:38; 2 Thessalonians 2:17). So much for the first objection to the doctrine of divine sovereignty.

Second Objection-`This doctrine is incompatible with human responsibility!'

Verse 19

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why, [ ti (H5101)], or (according to another reading) 'Why, then' [ moi (G3427) oun (G3767), ti (G5100) oun (G3767)]

Doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? [ anthesteeken (G436)] - 'who resisteth his will' (for the perfect of this verb has the sense of a present): q.d., 'If God chooses and rejects, pardons and punishes whom He pleases, why are those blamed who, if rejected by Him, cannot help sinning and 'perishing?' This objection shows, quite as conclusively as the former one, the real nature of the doctrine objected to-that it is Election and Nonelection to eternal salvation, prior to any difference of personal character: this is the only doctrine that could suggest the objection here stated, and to this doctrine the objection is plausible. What now is the apostle's answer? It is two-fold: First, 'It is irreverence and presumption in the creature to arraign the Creator.'

Verse 20

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Nay but, [ menounge (G3304). This compound adverb (mostly of late Macedonian usage) occurs in Romans 10:18; Luke 11:28; and Philippians 3:8. Wetstein, on Luke 11:28, gives classical examples of its use].

O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me ('why didst thou make me') thus? (see Isaiah 45:9.)

Verse 21

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? The objection (as Hodge says) is rounded on ignorance or misapprehension of the relation between God and His sinful creatures. It supposes that He is under obligation to extend His grace to all, whereas He is under obligation to none. All are sinners, and have forfeited every claim to His mercy; it is therefore perfectly competent to God to spare one and not another, to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. He, as a sovereign Creator, has the same right over them that a potter has over the clay. But it is to be borne in mind that Paul does not here speak of God's right over His creatures as creatures, but as sinful creatures; as He himself clearly intimates in the next verses. It is the cavil of a sinful creature against his Creator that he is answering, and he does so by showing that God is under no obligation to give His grace to any, but is as sovereign as in fashioning the clay.' But, Second, 'There is nothing unjust in such sovereignty.'

Verse 22

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

What if God, willing to show ('designing to manifest') his wrath - His holy displeasure against sin, and to make his power (to punish it) known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath-that is, 'destined to wrath,' just as "vessels of mercy," in the next verse, mean 'vessels destined to mercy:' compare Ephesians 2:3, "children of wrath."

Fitted to destruction. It is well remarked by Stuart, that the 'difficulties which such statements involve are not to be gotten rid of by softening the language of one text, while so many others meet us which are of he same tenor; and even if we give up the Bible itself, so long as we acknowledge an omnipotent and omniscient God, we cannot abate in the least degree from any of the difficulties which such texts make.' Be it observed, however, that if God, as the apostle teaches, expressly 'designed to manifest His wrath, and to make His power (in the way of wrath) known,' it could only be by punishing some, while He pardons others; and if the choice between the two classes was not to be founded, as our apostle also teaches, on their own doings, but on God's good pleasure, the decision behoved ultimately to rest with God. Yet, even in the necessary punishment of the wicked (as Hodge again observes), so far from proceeding with undue severity, the apostle would have it remarked that God "endures with much long-suffering" those objects of His righteous displeasure.

Verse 23

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy. The word "glory" seems to be used here in the same special sense as in Romans 6:4; in which case the whole expression denotes that 'glorious exuberance of divine mercy' which was manifested in choosing and eternally arranging for the salvation of sinners.

Which he had afore prepared unto glory,

Verse 24

Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Even us, whom he hath called, [ hous (G3739) kai (G2532) ekalesen (G2564) humas (G5209)] - rather, 'Whom he also called, even us;' that is, that He might make known the riches of His glory in not only 'afore preparing,' but in 'due time effectually calling us.'

The Calling of the Gentiles, and the Preservation of only a Remnant of Israel, both Divinely Foretold-The True Secret of both Events (Romans 9:24-33)

Here, for the first time in this chapter, the calling of the Gentiles is introduced; all before having respect, not to the substitution of the called Gentiles for the rejected Jews, but to the choice of one portion and the rejection of another of the same Israel. Had Israel's rejection been total, God's promise to Abraham would not have been fulfilled by the substitution of the Gentiles in their room; but Israel's rejection being only partial, the preservation of "a remnant," in which the promise was made good, was but "according to the election of grace." And now, for the first time, the apostle tells us that along with this elect remnant of Israel it was God's purpose to "take out of the Gentiles a people for His name" (Acts 15:14), and that this had been sufficiently announced in the Old Testament Scriptures. Into this new subject the apostle-according to his usual way-slides almost imperceptibly, in the middle of the present verse; so that without careful notice the transition is apt to be overlooked.

Not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ('not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.')

Verse 25

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

As he saith also in Osee ('Hosea') - observe here again our apostle's way of viewing the Old Testament Scriptures:

I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved ('I will call the no-people, my people, and her that was not beloved, beloved'): This is quoted (though not quite to the letter) from Hosea 2:23, a passage relating immediately, not to the pagan, but to the kingdom of the ten tribes; but since they had sunk to the level of the pagan, who were 'not God's people,' and in that sense "not beloved," the apostle legitimately applies it to the pagan, as "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise." (So 1 Peter 2:10.)

Verse 26

And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

And (another quotation from Hosea 1:10 ) it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children (called sons') of the living God. The expression, "in the place where ... there," must not be taken too strictly, as referring to some particular locality, as Palestine, 'where (to use the words of Fritzsche, who takes this view) it was long questioned whether the Gentiles were admissible to Christian fellowship.' It seems designed only to give greater emphasis to the gracious change here announced, from divine exclusion to divine admission to the privileges of the people of God.

Verse 27

Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

Esaias also ('But Esaias') crieth, [ krazei (G2896)] - an expression denoting a solemn testimony openly borne. (See John 1:15; John 7:28; John 7:37; John 12:44; Acts 23:24,41 .)

Concerning Israel, Though the number of the children ('sons') of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant, [ to (G3588) kataleimma (G2640)] - rather, 'the remnant;' meaning the elect remnant only, "shall be saved:"

Verse 28

For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

For he will finish the work, and cut it short, [ logon (G3056) gar (G1063) sunteloon (G4931) kai (G2532) suntemnoon (G4932)] - rather, 'For He is finishing the matter and cutting it short in'

In righteousness: because a short work ('matter') will the Lord make upon the earth. [Lachmann and Tregelles omit en (G1722) dikaiosunee (G1343) hoti (G3754) logon (G3056) suntemnoon (G4932) with 'Aleph (') A B, three cursives, and the Syriac; but Tischendorf rightly retains them, with D E F G K L, and nearly all cursives, the old Latin and Vulgate, the Philox. Syriac, and later versions, and most of the fathers; for it is far easier to account for their omission, though genuine, than for their insertion if not.] The passage is taken from Isaiah 10:22-23, as in the Septuagint. The sense given to it by the apostle may seem to differ from that intended by the prophet. But the aptness of the quotation for the apostle's purpose, and the sameness of sentiment in both places will at once appear, if we understand those words of the prophet which are rendered "the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness" to mean, that while a remnant of Israel should be graciously spared to return from captivity, "the decreed consumption" of the impenitent, majority should be "replete with righteousness" or illustriously display God's righteous vengeance against sin. The "short reckoning" seems to mean the speedy completing of His word, both in cutting off the one portion and saving the other.

Verse 29

And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

And as Esaias said ('hath said') before - meaning probably in an earlier part of his book, namely, Romans 1:9.

Except the Lord of Sabaoth - i:e., 'the Lord of Hosts:' the word is Hebrew, but occurs so in the Epistle of James (Romans 5:4), and has thence become naturalized in our Christian phraseology.

Had left us a seed - meaning 'a remnant,' small at first, but in due time to be a seed of plenty (cf Psalms 22:30-31; Isaiah 6:12-13),

We had been ('become') as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. But for this precious seed, the chosen people would have resembled the cities of the plain, both in degeneracy of character and in merited doom.

Verse 30

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

What shall we say then? (see the note at Romans 6:1) - 'What now is the result of the whole?' The result is this-very different from what one would have expected,

That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. As we have seen that "the righteousness of faith" is the righteousness which justifies (see the note at Romans 3:22, etc.), this verse must mean that 'the Gentiles, who, while strangers to Christ, were quite indifferent about acceptance with God, having embraced the Gospel as soon as it was preached to them, experienced the blessedness of a justified state.

Verse 31

But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

But Israel, which followed ('following') after the law of righteousness, hath not attained ('attained not') to the law of righteousness. [Here again Lachmann and Tregelles omit the second dikaiosunees (G1343) - in which case the meaning will be 'attained not to the law'-with 'Aleph (') A B D E G, three cursives, three copies of the old Latin, and one or two fathers. But Tischendorf rightly inserts it, though on the far less external authority of F K L, nearly all cursives, two copies of the old Latin (though a late corrector only of the one), the Vulgate, both the later Syriac and other later versions, with several fathers. Manifestly this reading was occasioned by a misunderstanding of the sense, and the recurrence of the same word.] The difficulty of this verse is to fix the precise sense in which the word "law" is used. That "the law of righteousness" means (by hupallage, as grammarians say) 'the righteousness of the law' (so Chrysostom, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, and others) is not to be endured. The view of Meyer and others-that it means ideally 'the justifying law,' is (as DeWette says) artificial. Nor must we take the word "law," as some do, to be superfluous, merely because the verse will explain without it. The word "law" is used here, plainly in the same sense as in Romans 7:23, to denote 'a principle of action:'-q.d., 'Israel, though sincerely and steadily seeking after the true principle of acceptance with God, nevertheless missed it.' (So, in effect, DeWette, and several other interpreters.)

Verse 32

Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by faith, but as it were (rather simply, 'as') by the works of the law - as being thus attainable, which justification is not. Since, therefore, it is attainable only by faith, they missed it.

For (it is more than doubtful whether this "for" stood originally in the text; but it was very natural to insert it)

They stumbled at that stumblingstone, [ lithon (G3037) proskommatos (G4348)] - better, 'against the stone of stumbling, meaning Christ. But in this they only did,

Verse 33

As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

As it is written (Isaiah 8:14 ; Isaiah 28:16 ), behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him - or, less definitely, 'believeth thereon,'

Shall not be ashamed. (On the rendering of this last word, see the note at Romans 10:11.) Two Messianic predictions are here combined, as is not unusual in quotations from the Old Testament. Thus combined, the prediction brings together both the classes of whom the apostle is treating-those to whom Messiah should be only a Stone of stumbling, and those who were to regard Him as the Cornerstone of all their hopes.

Thus expounded, this chapter presents no serious difficulties-none, in fact, which do not arise out of the subject itself, whose depths are unfathomable; whereas on every other view of it the difficulty of giving it any consistent and worthy interpretation is in our judgment insuperable.


(1) On all subjects which from their very nature lie beyond human comprehension, it will be our wisdom to set down what God says in His Word, and has actually done in his procedure toward men, as indisputable, even though it contradict the results at which, in the best exercise of our limited judgment, we may have arrived. To do otherwise-demanding the removal of all difficulties in the divine procedure, as the indispensable condition of our subjection to it-is as unwise as it is impious, driving the inquisitive spirit out of one truth after another, until not a shred even of Natural Religion remains.

(2) What manner of persons ought "God's elect" to be-in humility-when they remember that He hath saved them and called them, not according to their works, but according to His own purpose and grace, given them in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9); in thankfulness, for "Who maketh thee to differ, and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7;) in godly jealousy over themselves, remembering that "God is not mocked," but "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7); in "diligence to make our calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10); and yet in calm confidence, that "whom God predestinates, and calls, and justifies, them (in due time) He also glorifies" (Romans 8:30).

(3) Sincerity in religion, or a general desire to be saved, with assiduous efforts to do right, will prove fatal as a ground of confidence before God, if unaccompanied by implicit submission to His revealed method of salvation (Rom. 10:31-33 ).

(4) In the rejection of the great mass of the chosen people, and the inbringing of multitudes of estranged Gentiles, God would have men to see a law of His procedure which the judgment of the great day will more vividly reveal-that "the last shall be first, and the first last" (Matthew 20:16).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/romans-9.html. 1871-8.
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