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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Romans 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-33

II. DISPENSATIONAL.

GOD’S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL.

Chapters 9-11.

1. Israel and God’s Sovereignty.

CHAPTER 9

1. Paul’s Yearning over Israel. (Romans 9:1-3.)

2. What Israel Possesseth. (Romans 9:4-5.)

3. God’s Unconditional Election. (Romans 9:6-13.)

4. God’s Sovereignty. The Vindication of His Justice and Mercy. (Romans 9:14-26.)

5. Mercy for the Remnant. (Romans 9:27-29.)

6. Israel’s Rejection of God’s Righteousness. (Romans 9:30-33.)

This second division brings before us Israel and shows that the principles of the Gospel, as unfolded in the first eight chapters are in harmony with God’s ways with Israel. Jews and Gentiles, those who have the law and those who had no law, were proved guilty before God. All have sinned and are equally lost. Both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. The same God justifies the circumcision by faith, and also the uncircumcision. Jews were thus brought upon the same level with the Gentiles. There is no difference. Grace goes forth alike to Jews and Gentiles who believe. But this fact raises a most important question. How can all this be reconciled with the promises made in a special manner to the Jews? How can the principles be harmonized with God’s faithfulness? Has God gone back on His Word and covenants? Hath God cast away His people? The answer to these questions and the demonstration that God is just and faithful in all His dealings with Jews and Gentiles is given in these three chapters.

Godet states that the problem “how can God set aside those He elected,” is answered in three ways:

1. God preserves His entire liberty (9).

2. He shows that Israel’s sin is the true explanation (10).

3. God vindicates His action by foretelling future consequences (11).

Romans 9:1-3

Paul speaks of himself in each of these three chapters. Knowing that they rejected the salvation of God, he yearns and sorrows over his kinsmen. In the next chapter he expresses his heart’s desire and prayer for their salvation, and in the eleventh chapter he mentions himself as an evidence that God has not cast away His people. The Jews, because he preached salvation to the Gentiles, looked upon him as an enemy of their nation and as a traitor. “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, for the wrath is come upon them to the uppermost.” Thus he wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:16). In Jerusalem the Jewish mob cried, “Away with such a fellow from the earth.” They hated him, but he loved his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. It was this mighty love which burned in his soul, which constrained him to go up to Jerusalem, in spite of the warnings given by the Holy Spirit. So intense was his yearnings for them that he had wished to be cut off from Christ for them, if that were possible. He was like Moses, when he prayed, “If Thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book, which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32).

Romans 9:4-5

And what is this people in the purpose of God? What are their possessions and privileges? It is the most favored nation on the earth. “What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). The adoption is theirs, as His family on earth, destined for earthly blessings (Amos 3:2). And God had said, “I am a Father to Israel “ and “ Israel is my son, my Firstborn.” They had the Glory. In visible glory Jehovah dwelt in their midst. While absent now, the promise is, that in the future day of their restoration, that glory will return with the coming of the Lord (Isaiah 4:1-6; Ezekiel 43:4). Theirs are also the covenants; they were made with the nation; and the giving of the law. Furthermore, theirs is the service of God, that divinely instituted levitical ritual, so full of blessed and prophetic meaning. All other rituals are unauthorized counterfeits. They also have the promises. “Whose are the fathers, and of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came, He, who is God over all blessed forever. Amen.” (More than once the attempt has been made to change those wonderful words, bearing testimony to the Deity of our Lord. The revised version, in its marginal reading, is one of the latest attempts to rob our Lord of this great and true tribute.) And all these great things belong to Israel. They still belong to them. When the time of their national conversion and restoration comes, all these things will be manifested in their fulness, even to a restored, glorious service in the millennial temple (Ezekiel 40:1-49; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-27; Ezekiel 44:1-31; Ezekiel 45:1-25; Ezekiel 46:1-24; Ezekiel 47:1-23). And these statements show that the Apostle to the Gentiles did not despise the nation Israel and its privileges.

Romans 9:6-13

Now if the nation as such had failed, as we find later, on account of unbelief, and they were rejected for the present, the Word of God had not failed on that account. If God had called the Gentiles and they received now the blessing of righteousness, it does not mean that the Word of God has come to naught. God’s purpose concerning Israel cannot fail. But they prided themselves that they were of the seed of Abraham and therefore exclusively entitled to the promises. “We have Abraham to our father” (Luke 3:8), was their boast, and the Lord had told them “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). They forgot in their blind antagonism to the Gospel that the Scriptures showed that blessing had its source with the choice of God, that blessing is the result of elective mercy and the title to it must be of faith. Divine election is the only ground of blessing. They are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children. If such were the case, then the children of the flesh, Ishmael and his offspring, were on the same ground with them. There was a promise made “At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.” In that promised son, in Isaac alone, the seed was called, therefore the children of the promise are counted for the seed. This showed that they had no right to expect Divine blessing simply on the ground of natural descent. And in the choice of Isaac, God’s sovereignty and election is seen. They might therefore be Abraham’s seed and yet not be Abraham’s children; only those that are of faith are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). The case of Jacob and Esau is next cited. Rebecca was their mother. Before the children were even born, and therefore had done neither good nor evil, to merit anything, it was said unto her, “the elder shall serve the younger.” It was so ordered “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” If they claim and expect blessing merely on the ground of natural descent, then the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, must be admitted to the same blessings with them.* This they would not admit. Inasmuch as all rests upon God’s unconditional election, their objections to the blessing of the Gentiles through the Gospel, God dealing with them in grace, were disproved by their own history. (“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” The love for Jacob was unmerited. “Esau have I hated” stands written at the close of the Old Testament, after the continued wickedness of Edom had been fully demonstrated and merited God’s indignation.)

Romans 9:14-26

God can choose whom He will. This is His sovereignty. Is then God unrighteous in doing this? God forbid. Two examples of God’s sovereignty in mercy and in judgment are given. Had God dealt with Israel according to His righteousness, they would have been cut off. Then the sovereignty of God was displayed and Israel was spared. All rests upon that sovereign mercy--”So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” And Pharaoh illustrates God’s sovereignty in judgment. Pharaoh was a wicked, God-hating man. God had shown him mercy, but he hardened his heart and defied the Lord. In arrogant pride he said, “Who is Jehovah that I should obey Him? I know not Jehovah.” Then He hardened his heart and made him a monument of His wrath. “Both were wicked-- Israel and Pharaoh. Righteousness would have condemned both. He has mercy on one, and hardens the other. He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens, when simple righteousness would have condemned both. This is sovereignty. He proves Himself not merely righteous (the day of judgment will prove that), but proves Himself God.” But man, the creature of the dust, replies to God and brings his finite thoughts to judge God. The questions in Romans 9:19 are severely rebuked. What is man that he should speak to his Creator! The thing formed speaks to Him that formed it. “Why hast Thou made us thus?” The potter can take a lump of clay and form out of it two vessels, one unto honor and another unto dishonor. It is his right. God can do this according to His sovereign will, and none can say, What doest Thou? However, while this is God’s right, that He can do so, if He chooses to do it, there is nothing said, that He has done so. “God’s sovereignty is the first of all rights, the foundation of all rights, the foundation of all morality. If God is not God, what will He be? The root of the question is this; is God to judge man, or man God? God can do whatsoever He pleases. He is not the object for judgment. Such is His title: but when in fact the apostle presents the two cases, wrath and grace, he puts the case of God showing long suffering towards one already fitted for wrath, in order to give at last an example to men of His wrath in the execution of His justice; and then of God displaying His glory in vessels of mercy whom He has prepared for glory. There are then these three points established with marvelous exactitude; the power to do all things, no one having the right to say a word; wonderful endurance with the wicked, in whom at length His wrath is manifested; demonstration of His glory in vessels, whom He has Himself prepared by mercy for glory, and whom He has called, whether from among the Jews or Gentiles, according to the declaration of Hosea.” (Synopsis by J.N.D.) The objections which were raised against God’s dealings in race with Gentiles are completely met and answered. He calls whom He will and calling the Gentiles and showing them mercy has not cancelled the promises made to Israel.

Romans 9:27-29

Now while Grace goes forth to the Gentiles, mercy is also in store for Israel. Ultimately a remnant will be saved--not the whole nation, but a remnant. It refers us to a specific time, “When He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Isaiah 10:22-23). It is a prediction concerning the future. They will, when this age closes, pass through a time of judgment; in that period God in sovereign power and mercy will call a remnant of His people, the remnant so often seen in the prophetic Word and in the Book of Revelation. That remnant will be saved and will become the nucleus of the coming Kingdom; the unbelieving apostate Israel will be swept away in judgment.

Romans 9:30-33

The conclusion of this intensely interesting and often misunderstood chapter puts before us the fact of God’s merciful dealings with Gentiles and Israel’s failure. The Gentiles, who did not follow after righteousness, have attained to the righteousness, which is of faith. They believe the Gospel and enjoy the blessings of the Gospel. Israel failed. Why? They sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law, the way of failure and death. They rejected the principle of faith, even declared in their own Scriptures, “the just shall live by faith.” They stumbled at the stumbling stone (1 Peter 2:8).

2. Israel’s Failure and Unbelief.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/romans-9.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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