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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

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Verse 1

Romans 9:1

Romans 9:1

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit,—Paul having shown that the works of the Jewish law could not save sinners, but that they must be saved by the obedience of faith, by walking in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham, and that the Jews and Gentiles alike stand condemned without faith in Christ Jesus, lest the Jews might think Paul had been estranged from them, he calls Christ and the Holy Spirit to witness the truth of the assurance of his love for them. [Some claim that this is a solemn oath, but this interpretation is not supported by the best exegetes, as is attested by the following: Moses E. Lard says: “The expression is no oath, but merely a strong form of asseverating truth. The meaning is: ‘I speak the truth as in Christ and accountable to him. As much as to say: those who are in Christ are under the most solemn obligations, whenever they speak at all, to speak the truth; and now I speak under a full sense of this obligation.’ ” Philip Schaff: “The asseveration of the apostle is threefold, and is introduced abruptly, without a conjunction, in accordance with the feeling which prompts it. ‘In Christ’ is not an adjuration (the form of an oath in Greek would be entirely different), but means in fellowship with Christ, the element in which he lives. Such fellowship with him who is the truth implies the sincerity of one who enjoys it.” H. A. W. Meyer: “The explanation adopted by most of the older commentaries of ‘en’ in the sense of adjuration is a perfectly arbitrary departure from the man­ner of the apostle, who never swears by Christ, and also from Greek usage.” Charles Hodge: “These words are not to be taken as an oath.”]

Verse 2

Romans 9:2

Romans 9:2

that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.The cause of Paul’s sorrow and anguish of heart for the Jews was because they rejected Christ and were not in a saved state. [How noble Paul appears here, with his hearty love for those who from the day of his conversion had perse­cuted him with relentless hatred!]

Verse 3

Romans 9:3

Romans 9:3

For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ—It is not possible that Paul really desired to be accursed from God to save the Jewish people, had it been possible for this to save them. The mother sometimes in anguish for the loss of a child says: “O, I could die to save my child!” She does not mean that she really desires to do this; but if she were led only by her feeling of love for her child, she would give her life for it. But there are other considerations that hinder her willingness to do this. There are other children and dear ones to live for. The obligations she is under to her friends and to God and to herself hinder the doing what the love for the child alone made her feel she would do. So, 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, even if that would save them (which it would not). Paul was expressing the intensity of his love for them.

for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:—[Notice the tender way in which the apostle characterizes the Jews. His sorrow for them had its basis in the fact that apart from Christ they were exposed to the wrath of God and on the road to eternal death. It was this grief at the loss of men, this intense yearning for their salvation, that made Paul the preacher that he was.]

Verse 4

Romans 9:4

Romans 9:4

who are Israelites;—They were the children of Israel and heirs of the promises made to him. The name "Israelite” was for the Jew his especial badge and title of honor. To be de­scendants of Abraham, this honor they must share with the Ishmaelites (Genesis 16:15); of Abraham and Isaac, with the Edomites (Genesis 25:26); but none except themselves were the seed of Jacob, such as in this name of Israelite they were de­clared to be. Nor was this all, but, more gloriously still, their descent was herein traced up to him, not as he was Jacob, but as he was Israel, who, as a Prince, had power with God and with men, and prevailed (Genesis 32:28). That this title was accounted the noblest we have ample proof. When Paul uses this name, he reminds his readers that it is just those for whose salvation above all the Messiah was to come, who, when he has come, are apparently cut off from all share in the privileges of his kingdom.

whose is the adoption,—They had been adopted as chil­dren of God. [Out of all nations God chose Israel to stand in a special relation to him as his children. Of this adoption the deliverance from Egypt was the immediate result. Je­hovah said to Moses: “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus said Jehovah, Israel is my son, my firstborn: and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me.” (Exodus 4:22-23). Sonship with an Israelite was purely na­tional, not individual, and, therefore, no guarantee of salva­tion. Its mark was in the flesh, not in the spirit; and though a peculiar distinction within itself, and implying much, it is entitled to no honor under Christ. To his hereditary son­ship an Israelite had still to add sonship in Christ, as really as the humblest Gentile; otherwise he was lost.]

and the glory,—[The supernatural brightness in which God manifested his presence on Sinai. (Exodus 24:16-17). This glory appeared to Moses, and communicated itself, in a measure, to him; so that when he came down from the mountain his face shone (Exodus 34:29-35), and at times on the tent of meeting (Exodus 29:43; Exodus 40:34-35), and on the mercy seat of the ark (Leviticus 16:2). These were peculiar to the Israelites.]

and the covenants,The covenants which God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:2; Genesis 17:4; Genesis 17:7-11), and afterwards renewed to Isaac (Genesis 26:24), to Jacob (Genesis 28:13; Genesis 28:15), and to the whole people of Israel (Exodus 24:7-8). [These gracious cove­nants, expressing God’s purposes and plans, were renewed upon each successive occasion, with growing fullness and definiteness.]

and the giving of the law,—The law of Moses was given to them. [The reference here, no doubt, alludes not only to the contents of the law, but to the manner in which God gave it. Never before was the Supreme Being manifested with such outward signs of terror and majesty. “Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?” (Deuteronomy 4:33).]

and the service of God,—[It was an especial honor that God had bestowed upon them that he prescribed their service in the tabernacle and temple even to the minutest particulars. He showed Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, and he raised up men specially endowed by his Spirit with wisdom to carry out his directions. (Exodus 35:30-35). He ordained the priests and the ministry, the sacrifices, the altar, and all the vessels of the service.]

and the promises;—They were the heirs of the promises made through Abraham for the salvation of the world. [The promise of the Messiah was a possession of Israel in the sense that it was to be fulfilled exclusively through, though not exclusively for, Israel.]

Verse 5

Romans 9:5

Romans 9:5

whose are the fathers,—The reference is probably espe­cially to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom God delighted to honor and whose names have been preserved for all ages. [To have sprung from such forefathers was one of the most cher­ished thoughts of an Israelite. (2 Corinthians 11:22). These sacred persons are now mentioned, after the previous sacred things, so as to usher in the mention of the Christ himself.]

and of whom is Christ—[This is placed as the crowning and most exalted privilege: that their nation had given birth to the long-expected Messiah, the hope of the world.]

as concerning the flesh,—[This implies, of course, that he had another nature besides his human, or that while he was a man, he was also something else; that there was a nature in him which was not descended from "the fathers.” That this is the meaning will still further appear by noticing the im­portant distinctions so carefully expressed by Paul’s words and even by their exact order—"of whom is Christ as con­cerning the flesh.” Christ is not in the same sense as the patriarchs the peculiar property of the Israelites, "whose are the fathers.” He springs, indeed, from their race, but he "is over all”; and not only is his Israelitish origin thus con­trasted with his universal supremacy, but it is expressly lim­ited by his human nature. The closing emphasis of the clause falls upon the words, "as concerning the flesh,” which points onward to their natural contrast in the aspect of his person, who is "God blessed forever.”]

who is over all,—In this view of the passage, as a testi­mony to the supreme divinity of Christ, the whole revelation of God attests, as the following clearly shows: God, the Father, is the basis of all life (1 Corinthians 8:6); and "as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself: and he gave him authority to execute judg­ment, because he is a son of man.” (John 5:26-27). The "image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Still, even as the image of God, the Son is perfectly expressive of the divine being. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9). He is "in the form of God” and "on an equality with God.” (Philippians 2:6). He is expressly called "God our Saviour” (Titus 1:3) and "the great God and our Sav­iour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Accordingly, the Son is also the object of adoration to angels and men. (Philippians 2:10). These Scriptures, with many others, declare that Jesus Christ was with the Father, in the bosom of the Godhead, before the worlds were created; that he was the counselor of the God­head; that he was God, as divine and necessarily of the same nature and being as God, the Father. All power and might that pertain to the Godhead were delivered to the Son. He was clothed with all authority “in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). All the power of the Father is concentrated in him.

God blessed for ever. Amen.—[An ascription of praise to Christ is here especially suitable, in view of his being set at naught by the Israelites, and is exactly in line with Paul’s method, as indicated in chapter 1:25, where, in contrast with the dishonor heaped upon God by the Gentiles, the affirmation is made that he “is blessed for ever.” A doxology to God would not fit in with the anguish at Israel’s rejection, to which Paul gives utterance in this paragraph; on the other hand, the words, referred to Christ, whom the Israelites re­jected in spite of his dignity, give a reason for his anguish.]

Verse 6

Romans 9:6

Romans 9:6

But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought.—The Israelites, having received the word of God and these privileges and honors, then having rejected Jesus Christ, does not prove that the word of God had taken no effect. [The word of God here must be taken comprehensively of all the promises to Abraham and to his seed.]

For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:—All those who were of the family of Abraham after the flesh did not belong to his true family, and were not the children of the promises.

Verse 7

Romans 9:7

Romans 9:7

neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children:—Neither does their being of his family make them all the true children according to the promise. [Paul’s object is to show that the promises made to the children of Abraham were not made to his natural descendants as such.]

but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.—The promise was to the seed of Isaac, not to the children of Ishmael or to the sons of Keturah. Abraham had many descendants of these families to whom the promise was not made. Only to the children of Isaac were the promises.

Verse 8

Romans 9:8

Romans 9:8

That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God;—All the children of Abraham after the flesh were not children of God. [This explains the principle on which God acted in making Isaac, but not Ishmael, the heir of Abra­ham’s promise. The children merely of the flesh were not in the past accepted of God as his children. On the contrary, they were cast out, as was the case with Ishmael.]

but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.— Only those who came through Isaac are counted as seed. [All other children of Abraham were children of the flesh. Their only relation to him was outward and according to natural laws. Physical connection with him was not in itself a ground of inheriting the promise.]

Verse 9

Romans 9:9

Romans 9:9

For this is a word of promise, According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.—The promise as made to Abraham was made to the son of Sarah, born at the time appointed. [In verse 6 the unbelieving Israelites are sup­posed to claim the blessings of the covenant, on the ground that these blessings were promised to Abraham’s children, and to say if they are excluded from the kingdom of God, the word of God will fall to the ground. This claim rests on the assumption that all Abraham’s descendants have a right to the covenant; but Paul proves that this right was not ad­mitted by God in the case of Abraham’s children. There­fore, the claim made based upon it by the Israelites is invalid. Nay, more, the claim of the unbelieving Israelites is precisely the same as that of Ishmael; but believers have a position similar to that of Isaac. The gospel being true, God is only acting in reference to Israel’s son as he acted of old in refer­ence to the sons of Abraham; for the gospel announces that only believers are heirs of the promise, for “they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7); “and if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).]

Verse 10

Romans 9:10

Romans 9:10

And not only so; but Rebecca also having conceived by one, even by our father IsaacThe promise was not only re­stricted to the son of Sarah, but when Rebecca had conceived by Isaac, there was still further restriction of the promise to Jacob and not to Esau, as set forth in the next verse. [This case is more significant than the former. We are now in the pure line of Abraham by Isaac, the ancestor from whom is the promised seed; and yet his wife sees the divine selection which had been exercised to the sons of Abraham reproduced as between her own children. The expression, “by one,” is occasioned by the contrast here to the case of Isaac and Ish­mael. Then there were two mothers, which might justify the preference accorded to Isaac. Here, where the children were of the same mother, the only possible difference would have been on the father’s side. But as the case was one of twins, the commonness of origin was complete. No external motive of preference could, therefore, influence the divine choice.]

Verse 11

Romans 9:11

Romans 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,—Before the twins were born God said that the older should serve the younger. The natural and usual order was re­versed. God saw the characters of the two children, and chose the younger to become the head of the chosen race because he would trust God rather than the other. It was not on account of the works of their own that either might do, but Jacob would trust God and obey him. Those who do this, God always selects as his beloved. But the restriction of the promise to the family of Jacob is here the point.

Verse 12

Romans 9:12

Romans 9:12

it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.—[There is no account of Esau’s ever having personally served Jacob. The reference, then, must be to their respective pos­terities, and with this agree the facts of history. It is said of David that he put garrisons throughout Edom, and that “all the Edomites became servants of David.” (1 Chronicles 18:13). Under Joram they revolted (2 Kings 8:20), but were defeated by Amaziah (2 Kings 14:7), and Elath was taken from them by Azariah (2 Kings 14:22). Indeed, the Edomites were long subject to the kings of Israel, the latter often slaying them in great numbers. They seem to have taken special delight in cultivating Esau’s hatred of Jacob, and they never let pass an opportunity to display it. From the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the Edomites, as a separate people, disappear from the pages of history.]

Verse 13

Romans 9:13

Romans 9:13

Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.—Many think this was written before the children were born, but this is not correct. Yet it is true that God foretold that Esau, the older, should serve Jacob, the younger, before they were born. This was, no doubt, made because God, seeing the end from the beginning, saw that Jacob would trust and serve him and that Esau would not. To “love” and “hate” as God uses the terms means to approve or disapprove, to bless or curse.

Verse 14

Romans 9:14

Romans 9:14

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.—Because God chose Jacob before he was born, shall we say that he is unrighteous? Did he deal by partiality or favoritism and not by the rule of right which he revealed through Peter when he said: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him”? (Acts 10:34-35). [Paul now shows that the Scrip­tures approve this liberty, and these Scriptures, reverenced by the Israelitish objector to whom he is writing, would not as­sign injustice to God. The argument is wholly scriptural.]

Verse 15

Romans 9:15

Romans 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.—This language was spoken to Moses (Exodus 33:19), and is quoted to prove that selection is not after the flesh nor according to the inventions and works of men, but according to the will of God; and God wills to elect these who trust and follow him, not those who trust their fleshly relations nor their own wise works. When the people trusted and obeyed God, he had mercy on them; when they refused to trust and follow him, he refused to have mercy upon them. This was so universally understood to be the law of God that Solomon put it in a proverb: “He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13). The whole dealings of God with man under the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations illus­trate and enforce this truth. When God says, “I will have mercy on whom I will,” he means that he will have mercy on those who confess and turn from their sins and transgressions, and nothing that others may do will turn him from it.

Verse 16

Romans 9:16

Romans 9:16

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that run­neth, but of God that hath mercy.—He illustrates what he means by the case of Jacob and Esau. Isaac willed that Esau should inherit the blessing, and Esau ran with haste to obtain the venison for his father that he might have the blessing; but neither Isaac’s will nor Esau’s running could defeat the purpose of God to bless Jacob. If Esau had possessed the character approved by God, God would have willed to bless him; but as he did not possess the character approved by God, his father’s anxiety for him to have the blessing could not secure it.

Verse 17

Romans 9:17

Romans 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,—God never raised up nor caused Pharaoh to do what he did, or any wickedness, in the sense of making him wicked. “But in very deed for this cause have I made thee to stand, to show thee my power.” (Exodus 9:16). This does not say that God raised him up that Pharaoh should do anything, but that God might show his power in destroying one so wicked as was Pharaoh, and in destroying him he might give clear evidence that he will destroy every one who so sins against him, and in punishing in so clear and unmistakable a manner one so powerful for his sins against God’s humble people. After Pharaoh of his own will had done evil, been wicked, com­mitted high crimes against God and God’s people, God made a public example of him, punished him in a public way, and raised him up before the world, so that the whole world could see the punishment was inflicted by God and for Pharaoh’s wickedness. So he raised the wicked Pharaoh up before the world to show that all the power of all the Egyptian throne could not defeat his purpose.

and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.—Thus did God cause his name to be declared through­out the whole earth as the avenger of his own people. [The judgment of God on the Egyptians consisted in the plagues, whereby the nation was well-nigh destroyed; and the fame of these plagues, and the safe passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, and the destruction of the Egyptians therein, struck terror to the nations around, as is indicated by the many references to them. The words sung after the passage of the Red Sea: “The peoples have heard, they tremble: pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia. Then were the chiefs of Edom dismayed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling taketh hold upon them: all the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away.” (Exodus 15:14-15). Also the words of Rahab to the spies sent by Joshua: “The fear of you is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt. . . . For Jehovah your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11). So also the words of the Gibeonites: “From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of Jehovah thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt.” (Joshua 9:9). Thus it was that the catastrophe which distinguished the going out of Egypt, provoked by Pharaoh’s blind resistance, paved the way for the conquest of Canaan. And even to the present day, wherever throughout the world Exodus is read, the divine intention is realized: “To show my power, and make known my name throughout all the earth.”]

Verse 18

Romans 9:18

Romans 9:18

So then he hath mercy on whom he will,—God has mercy on those who trust him that they may be saved.

and whom he will he hardeneth.—Pharaoh is an example of those that are hardened that they may be destroyed. [From this example is deduced the principle that no man can say: “I am, whatever I may do, safe from the judgment of God, or such another, whatever he may do, is unworthy of the divine favor.” The Israelites thought that in no case could they be abandoned by God, and in no case could the Gentiles be received by him. Paul here shows that they are grievously mistaken. The history of the hardening of Pharaoh was, no doubt, well fixed in the minds of all the Israelites. God, in raising him up, foresaw his proud resistance, and has in re­serve to chastise it afterwards by a complete blindness which was to be the means of reaching the desired result. To harden is to take from a man the sense of the true, the just, and even the useful, so that he is no longer open to the wise admonitions and significant circumstances which should turn him aside from the evil way on which he has entered. The word “harden” cannot signify, in the account (Exodus 4:1 to Exodus 14:9), anything else as God’s act than it signifies as the act of Pharaoh when it is said he hardened himself. But what must not be forgotten, and what appears distinctly from the whole narrative, is that Pharaoh’s hardening was at first his own act. Five times it is said of him that he himself hardened his heart (Exodus 7:13-14; Exodus 7:22; Exodus 8:15; Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:7), before the time when at last it is said that God hardened his heart (Exodus 9:12) ; and even after that, as if a remnant of liberty still re­mained to him, it is said for the last time that he hardened himself (Exodus 9:34-35). Then at length, as if by way of a terrible retribution, God hardened him five times. (Exodus 10:1; Exodus 10:20; Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10; Exodus 14:8). Thus he at first closed his heart obstinately against the influence exercised on him by the summonses of Moses and the first chastisements which over­took him—that was his sin; and thereafter, but still within limits, God rendered him deaf not merely to the voice of justice, but that of sound sense and simple prudence—that was his punishment. Far, then, from its having been God who urged to evil, God punished him with the most terrible chastisements for the evils to which he voluntarily gave him­self up.

In this expression, “hardening,” we find the same idea as in “God gave them up,” by which the apostle expressed God’s judgment on the Gentiles, “because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God.” (Romans 1:21). When man has willfully quenched the light he has received and the first rebukes of divine mercy, and when he persists in giving him­self up to his evil course, there comes a time when God with­draws from him the beneficent action of his grace. The man becomes insensible even to the counsels of prudence. He has rejected salvation for himself; he was free to do so; but he cannot prevent God from now making use of him and of his ruin to advance the salvation of others. From being the end he is degraded to the rank of means. Such was the lot of Pharaoh. Egypt saw clearly whither his mad resistance tended. His magicians told him: “This is the finger of God.” (Exodus 8:19). His servants said to him: “How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go.” (Exodus 10:7). He himself, after every plague, felt his heart relent. He even went the length of exclaiming: “I have sinned this time: Jeho­vah is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” (Exodus 9:27). Now was the decisive instant; for the last time after this moment of softening he hardened himself. (Exodus 9:34). Then the righteousness of God took hold of him. He had refused to glorify God actively; he must glorify him passively. The Israelites of Paul’s day did not disapprove of this conduct on God’s part as long as it concerned only Pharaoh or the Gentiles; but what they affirmed, in virtue of their having been chosen to be God’s peculiar people, was that never, and on no condition, could they themselves be the objects of such a judgment. They restricted the liberty of divine judgment on themselves, as they restricted the liberty of grace toward the Gentiles. In the verse before us he reestablishes both liberties, vindicating God’s sole right to judge whether this or that man possesses the conditions on which he will think fit to show him favor, or those which will make it suitable for him to punish by hardening him.]

Verse 19

Romans 9:19

Romans 9:19

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? Then some will say: “If all are hardened or forgiven accord­ing to the will of God, why does God find fault with any ?”

For who withstandeth his will?—[God does not make men just what they are and then find fault with them for being what he makes them. Morally, men make themselves what they are, which at the first is generally what they should not be. For this only God finds fault with them. It is true that God sometimes makes choice, as in the case of Jacob and Esau; but he finds fault with no one for being what his choice makes him. God sometimes hardens men, as in the case of Pharaoh; but he finds no fault with them for being hard when he hardens them. He found fault with Pharaoh for hardening his heart and wickedly resisting his will.]

Verse 20

Romans 9:20

Romans 9:20

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?—This is a sharp reproof of the captious complaint against the Creator. Man, with a just understanding of his own weakness and shortsightedness, and God’s wisdom and good­ness, would say, “God knows all things, God is good, and the Judge of all the earth will do right”; so recognize that God understands, while man does not, and trust God even when he does not see the way. Indeed, this is the only frame of true faith.

Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?—[The intent in this is to stop the mouth of the objector who leaves an implication of wrong on the part of God in bestowing favors on some which he with­holds from others.]

Verse 21

Romans 9:21

Romans 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?—This refers to the parable of the potter, and is so significant that I quote it in full: “The word which came to Jeremiah from Jehovah, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he was making a work on the wheels. And when the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” (Jeremiah 18:1-4). In this it is clearly seen that the potter proposed to make of the clay a vessel unto honor, and it was only when the day marred in his hand and showed its unfit­ness to be so made “that he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” As the clay marred in his hands, it was unfit for a vessel of honor; so he made a common vessel unto dishonor.

Now, bear in mind the point to be illustrated in the figure, and you will find that the way of God’s dealing with Israel was conditional: "Then the word of Jehovah came to me, say­ing, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concern­ing a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:5-10).

All this is explanatory of the expression: “As the clay in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel.” It is clear that it does not mean that as the clay is passive in the hands of the potter, so Israel is destitute of all power in the hands of Jehovah; but that as the clay is subject to the power of the potter, who will make of it a vessel of honor or dishonor, according to the fitness of the material, so will the God of Israel deal with his people according to the proper use or the sinful abuse of their free agency, in either doing good or evil in his sight.

Verse 22

Romans 9:22

Romans 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:—Why should it be thought strange if God, in order to show his hatred of sin and his deter­mination to punish it, should endure for a long time those Israelites, who, like Pharaoh, fitted themselves as vessels of wrath for destruction, and then visited ruin upon them, so that the whole world should see it? This he applies to the Israel­ites, who, under the dealing of God, had so marred their char­acters as to fit themselves for destruction? Concerning God’s exercising long-suffering unto these same vessels of wrath Paul says: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Romans 2:4-5). Here we see that these persons became vessels of wrath in spite of God’s effort to save them through the exer­cise of his goodness and long-suffering, which was intended to lead them to repentance.

To make this still clearer, let us read the comment of Peter on Paul’s understanding of the purpose of God in the exercise of long-suffering: “The Lord is not slack concerning his prom­ise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). In this he gives his own in­spired interpretation of God’s purpose in the exercise of long- suffering. He refers to Paul’s use of the term as identical with the way in which he himself explains it; hence, he adds: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved Brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things.” (2 Peter 3:14-16). Unquestionably, then, we see that, according to Peter’s inspired exposition of Paul’s teaching of God’s long-suffering, God was striving to save these vessels of wrath by leading them to repentance, while they on their part were treasuring up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath by despising “the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering.” Accordingly, when Paul’s opponent is sup­posed to ask, “Why doth he still find fault? For who with- standeth his will?” it is clear that the argument in the passage before us is intended to show that the captious question of the opponent is founded on a false assumption—that the actual ground of his objection is the very fact that he persists in withstanding the will of God. The apostle forcibly illustrates the long-suffering of God and the perverse resistance on the part of Israel when he says: “All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” (Romans 10:21).

Verse 23

Romans 9:23

Romans 9:23

and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,—Is it strange that he, while rejecting these vessels of wrath, should show the riches of his glory to the vessels fitted to receive his mercy? He had prepared them for glory when, in consequence of their obedience to the gospel, he forgave their sins.

Verse 24

Romans 9:24

Romans 9:24

even us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?—Both Jews and Gentiles, whom he called through the gospel, are the vessels of mercy, fitted to receive the riches of the grace in Jesus Christ. [This was a direct and primary purpose of God’s long-suffering toward vessels of wrath. “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) ; and, therefore, the chosen race, notwithstanding all its trans­gressions, was preserved in order that the promise might em­brace in its accomplishment both the remnant of the Jews and the fullness of the Gentiles. The destruction of the Jews predicted by Jesus (Matthew 24:15-28) was delayed in mercy until the thousands of Israelites and Gentiles accepted Christ. The whole passage shows that God suffered the sins of the Jewish race without cutting them off, because its existence was essential in his plans for saving the world.]

Verse 25

Romans 9:25

Romans 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.He quotes from Hosea to show that it had been the purpose of God from the beginning to call the Gentiles, who at that time were not the children of God and were not beloved for their trust in God; they would become faithful, and so be called the beloved.

Verse 26

Romans 9:26

Romans 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.—This he quotes to show that God had from the beginning purposed to bring the Gentiles into Christ. [Paul quotes these words, which refer primarily to the ten tribes, in proof that God, when he called men from the midst of the Gentiles to be vessels of mercy, acted on the principles announced by Hosea. The Gentiles could not be more com­pletely aliens than those whom God declared to be neither his people nor objects of his mercy. But he foretold that in days to come he would speak again to the outcasts and call them his children. In the gospel this prophecy is fulfilled, and the fulfillment, though wider than the promise, exactly accords with its spirit. The passage quoted was probably chosen because it is a clear promise, not only of the blessings of the gospel, but of the actual announcement (Romans 1:2) of the good tidings. What in the days of Hosea God promised to say in days then future, he actually said (Romans 8:14) in the gospel. To be called the sons of God is a most honorable and distinguished appellation. No higher favor can be conferred on mortals than to be the sons of the living God, members of his family, en­titled to his protection, and secure of his watch and care. The reception of the Gentiles being now established by Hosea, Paul proceeds to prove from Isaiah that only a remnant of Israel will be saved.]

Verse 27

Romans 9:27

Romans 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:He quotes Isaiah 10:22-23 to show that the children of Israel, though “as the sand of the sea,” went into captivity, only a remnant of them were faith­ful to God and returned. This was quoted as a prophetic illustration of their rejection of Christ. Of the multitude, only a remnant would receive him and be preserved from destruction and dispersion that awaited them. All would not be cast aside; a remnant would be saved, now as then.

Verse 28

Romans 9:28

Romans 9:28

for the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finish­ing it and cutting it short.—God, after long forbearance, will finish the work of dealing with the Jews, and in righteousness and fidelity he will speedily punish them as their sins demand.

Verse 29

Romans 9:29

Romans 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.—And as Isaiah had said of their former captivity, unless the Lord of hosts had spared a few as a seed, they would have been utterly destroyed, as had been the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. God had proposed to save Sodom, if only a few righteous persons could be found. The remnant in Israel saved it from the utter destruction that came upon Sodom.

Verse 30

Romans 9:30

Romans 9:30

What shall we say then?—[What conclusion shall we draw from the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah, and from the previous train of remarks thereon? To what conclusion have we come concerning the Israelites and Gentiles?]

That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith;—The Gentiles, who formerly refused to follow God and to seek the righteousness required in the law of Moses, have now attained to that righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus. This brings out the reason why the Jews have rejected the gospel and the Gentiles have accepted it. The Jews sought righteousness by an outward observance without purification of their hearts by faith ; the Gentiles sought it by faith, which purifies the heart and works by love.

Verse 31

Romans 9:31

Romans 9:31

but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.—Israel, who, confiding in their own merit and good works, betook themselves for righteousness to their own supposed complete obedience to the law of Moses, have not found or attained to such a law of righteousness.

Verse 32

Romans 9:32

Romans 9:32

Wherefore?—Why is it that the Israelites who sought it failed to attain it?

Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. —Because they sought it, not through believing with the heart and so purifying the heart by faith, but only regulated the outward actions.

They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;—They were not led by faith, else they would not have stumbled at Jesus Christ. The law of Moses regulated the outward actions and failed to reach the heart. The prophet foretold that God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel: “Be­hold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Verse 33

Romans 9:33

Romans 9:33

even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence:—It had been foretold that God would lay in Zion a stone of stumbling. That stone of stumbling is the Lord Jesus Christ. [There was never a prophecy more literally fulfilled. When he spoke plainly, they were offended; and when he spoke in parables, they were dis­pleased. When he healed, they took offense; when he did not heal and refused to give a sign, they were dissatisfied. If he came to the feast, they sought his life; if he did not come, they busied themselves searching for him. Nothing that he did or failed to do pleased. His whole earthly life developed an ever-increasing dislike for him and bitter animosity for his claims.]

and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.—Whosoever believes on him shall not be brought to shame at the judgment seat of Christ. [The man who believes in Jesus Christ with his whole heart shall not be agitated or thrown into commotion by fear or want of success, shall not be disappointed in his hope, and shall never be ashamed that he consecrated his life to God through Jesus Christ. They who do not believe in Jesus Christ shall be agitated, fall, and sink into eternal shame and contempt. (Daniel 12:2).]

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Romans 9". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/romans-9.html.
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