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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Romans 9



Other Authors
Verses 1-33

CHAPTER NINE OPENS another section of the Epistle, a very clearly defined one. In Romans 1:1-32—8 the apostle had unfolded his Gospel, in which all distinction between Jew and Gentile is seen to be non-existent. He knew however that many might regard his teaching as indicating that he had no love for his nation and no regard for God’s pledged word relating to them. Consequently we now have three dispensational chapters in which the mystery of God’s ways concerning Israel are explained to us.

In the first three verses of chapter 9 Paul declares his deep love for his people. His affection for them was akin to that of Moses, who prayed, “Blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book” (Exodus 32:32). Then in verses Romans 9:4 and

5 he recounts the great privileges which had been accorded to them. Last of these, but not least, there sprang out of them the Christ, whose Deity he plainly states.

How then came it that Israel was in so sorry a plight? Had the Word of God failed? Not for one moment; and the first great fact brought forward to explain the situation is that of the sovereignty of God.

Now Israel were the last people in the world who could afford to quarrel with the divine sovereignty, for again and again it had been exercised in their favour. This point comes very clearly before us up to verse Romans 9:16. God made a sovereign choice in regard to the sons of both Abraham and Isaac. He chose Isaac and Jacob, and set aside Ishmael and Esau. If any wished to object to God making a choice, they would have to obliterate all distinction between themselves and both Ishmaelites and Edomites. This they would not contemplate for one moment. Well then, God was only continuing to do as He had already done, and hence not all who were of Israel by natural descent were the true Israel of God.

Moreover when Israel made the golden calf in the wilderness they would have been blotted out in judgment had the law had its way. Instead God fell back upon His sovereign mercy, according to words from Exodus 33:19, quoted here in verse Romans 9:15. Thus is a third case of God exercising His sovereignty in their favour, even as verse Romans 9:17 supplies us with an example of God exercising His sovereignty against Pharaoh.

The plain facts are these:—(1) God has a will. (2) He exercises it as He pleases. (3) No one can successfully resist it. (4) If challenged, the rightness of His will can always be demonstrated when the end is reached. God is like the potter and man is like the clay.

How often God’s will is challenged! How much reasoning has taken place on the facts stated in our chapter! How slow we are to admit that God has a right to do as He likes, that in fact He is the only one that has the right, inasmuch as He alone is perfect in foreknowledge, wisdom, righteousness and love. Things may often appear inexplicable to us, but then that is because we are imperfect.

Verse Romans 9:13 has given rise to difficulty. But that statement is quoted from the book of Malachi; words written long after both men had fully shown what was in them; whereas verse Romans 9:12 records what was said before their birth.

Others have objected to God’s words to Pharaoh as quoted in verse 17. The answer to such objections lies in our chapter, verses Romans 9:21-23. Men pit themselves against God, hardening their hearts against Him, and in result God makes a signal example of them. He has a right so to do; while others become vessels of mercy, whom beforehand He prepares for glory.

Consequently if any object to what God is doing today, in calling out by the Gospel an elect people both from Jews and Gentiles, the answer simply is, that God is only doing again in our days what He has done in the past. Moreover the prophets had anticipated that He would act thus. Both Moses and Isaiah had foretold that only a remnant of Israel should be saved, and that a people formerly not beloved would be called into favour. This is stated in verses Romans 9:25-29.

The matter is briefly summed up for us in the closing verses. Israel stumbled at that stumbling-stone, which was Christ. Further they misused the law, treating it as a ladder by which they might climb into righteousness, instead of a plumb-line by which all their supposed righteousness might be tested. Israel had missed righteousness by law, and Gentiles had reached righteousness by faith.


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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