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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
Romans 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

The Distinction between the True and the False Israel. 9:1-13

The rejection of the Jews a matter of sorrow:

v. 1. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

v. 2. that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

v. 3. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,

v. 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;

v. 5. whose are the fathers, and of whom, as Concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is Over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

The apostle has closed the first part of his letter the positive exposition of his Gospel. He now opens up an entirely new section, devoting himself to some practical problems which are connected with the teaching of the Gospel of salvation through Christ Jesus. The truth I speak in Christ, I lie not. It is a most solemn and emphatic protestation in a matter which is very near to his heart. He is speaking the truth in Him whose rule and government he has accepted in all conditions of life, thus putting into practice his communion with Christ: not merely as an honest man, but as a Christian and as a servant of Jesus Christ he says the truth, he gives proof of the faith of his heart. And to emphasize the truth of his statement still more he affirms that his conscience bears witness with his words in the Holy Ghost. Paul is fully conscious and certain of the fact that his conscience is not in error in this case, that the Holy Spirit Himself is his guide in this matter, and that the testimony of his conscience is thus altogether reliable. The content of his solemn assertion is, first of all: Great heaviness I have and continual sorrow in my heart. He is bearing a heavy load of sorrow and pain, which causes his heart great distress. He could hardly find words strong enough to convey his feeling. For he was anything but an indifferent spectator of the sorrows, temporal and spiritual, which were about to come upon his countrymen. He now employs the very strongest terms to express his boundless love for his Jewish brethren: I could wish that I myself might be a curse away from Christ for my brethren, instead of my brethren, my relatives according to the flesh. To this extreme Paul would be ready to go, if it were in accordance with the will of God, if the matter were allowable, possible, proper. His own soul's salvation Paul is willing to place into jeopardy, to give in exchange for the curse and doom of destruction which is threatening the Jews; his kinsmen according to the flesh. Paul here, like Moses before him. Exo_32:32, is ready to place his soul as a ransom for the souls of his people, thus exhibiting an almost unbelievable power, depth, and ardor of love, far surpassing ordinary sympathy. The innermost recesses of his being were shaken by his loving affection for the people of his own race.

Paul now enumerates some of the advantages of his people which enable us to appreciate the ardor of his love for them and the depth of his grief on account of their exclusion from salvation in Christ: Being such persons as are Israelites, distinguished and honored by the name given to the patriarch Jacob by the Angel of the Lord, Gen_32:20, of which they were very proud. Theirs was the sonship: they were chosen by God to be His people in a peculiar sense, Hos_11:1; Exo_4:22-23; Exo_19:5, "selected to be the recipients of peculiar blessings, and to stand in a peculiar relation to God. " To them belonged the glory of the Lord, that singular manifestation of the presence of God according to which God lived in the midst of His people with His merciful presence, Exo_40:34; Exo_29:43; Lev_16:2; 1Ki_8:11. They had the covenants, or testaments. God had repeatedly made a formal covenant with the patriarchs, giving them the express assurance that He would be their God and the God of their seed after them. Their privilege had been the giving of the Law, the solemn and impressive declaration of the divine will from Mount Sinai, this being a distinction of which the Jews were inordinately proud. Theirs had also been the service, the whole ritual, the beautiful and impressive form of worship in use in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. To them belonged the promises of the Messiah and His redemption; they had been received in their midst by their own prophets. To the Jewish people belonged also the fathers, the progenitors of the Messiah, from whom Jesus, in being born of the Virgin Mary herself truly a Jewess, took His human nature. This was truly the greatest privilege and distinction of all, as St. Paul brings out in his doxology: Who is over all God, blessed into eternity Amen. Jesus Christ, true man, born as a member of the Jewish race: is at the same time God over all, true God from eternity, with His almighty power extending over all the world, over all creatures. And as such the honor given to God is due to Him, blessing and glory into eternity, forever and ever. To this declaration we say Amen, for it is true. Note that the deity of Christ is here most emphatically affirmed and brought out, just as in the entire Gospel of John and in other passages of Scriptures, Php_2:6; Col_2:9 : Eph_5:5; 2Th_1:12 : Tit_2:13. Mark also that the great privileges and advantages which St. Paul here enumerates, offer a sufficient explanation for the fervency of his love. He was anything but an enemy of his people: his solicitude was prompted by the most sincere affection.


Verses 6-9

The promises of God concern the spiritual descendants of Abraham:

v. 6. Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel,

v. 7. neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

v. 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.

v. 9. For this is the word of promise, at this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

From what the apostle had said in the first verses of the chapter the Jews might argue that he was setting aside the very promises of God which he had just mentioned as a privilege of the Israelites. He therefore proceeds to show that the rejection of the Jewish people does not prove that the promises of God given to them are not being fulfilled. He makes his meaning clear: But I do not mean to say that the Word of God has fallen to the ground, has come to nothing. The promise of God that Israel was to be the people of God and the bearer of the prophecy concerning Christ was still valid and reliable. The Prophet of Nazareth was the Savior of Israel also, He was to be given to all children of Abraham. And pet the external Israel has become a curse and an abomination before the Lord. This apparent contradiction Paul now solves: For not all that are of Israel, that belong to the Jewish race by carnal descent and relationship. are really Israel in the sense in which God uses the expression: meaning the spiritual descendants of Israel, those who followed the patriarch in his faith. Neither are those that are the seed, the children of Abraham according to the flesh, all children in truth, and acknowledged as such by God; but: In Isaac shall be named to thy seed, Gen_21:12; after Isaac shall thy seed be called; Isaac's descendants, speaking literally, are to be considered the true children of Abraham. A mere carnal descent from the patriarchs cannot be made a basis of boasting, for Ishmael was rejected in spite of his natural descent from Abraham, and therefore God may well reject the Jews, though they can trace their lineage back to Abraham.

In addition to the proof from history to which Paul has just referred, he now brings out the spiritual meaning contained in the promise of God to Abraham: That is to say, Not the children of the flesh, that are born according to the regular course of nature, are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned for seed, as the true descendants of Abraham. For the word of promise is this: According to this time, the time required by the course of nature, I will come, and Sarah shall have a son. Viewed from the historical side only, these words, Gen_18:10, might mean that Isaac was born by virtue of a special promise. But the apostle includes here the wider, spiritual sense. The children of the promise are those that have accepted the promise, the prophecy and message of the Messiah, by faith, Gal_4:24-28, in this sense Isaac is the type of the spiritual children of promise, those that have become children of God by virtue of their acceptance of the divine promise in Christ Jesus, the believers of all time. So the trend of Paul's argument is, that just as God made a distinction between the children, the offspring of Abraham, so He is discriminating still: the fact that many people, the great majority of the Jews, do not receive the Gospel and are cast away by God no more proves that the promise has failed than the fact that God of old chose Isaac only and set aside Ishmael.


Verses 10-13

An additional example of rejection:

v. 10. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac,

v. 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,)

v. 12. it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger.

v. 13. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

To give additional corroboration to his statements! Paul introduces another example from the history of the patriarchs: But not only this. The instance just cited is not the only one; Rebecca also furnishes evidence for the point in question. "In the former case it might be supposed that Isaac was chosen because he was the son of Sarah, a free woman, and the legitimate wife of Abraham, whereas Ishmael was the son of a maidservant. " (Hodge.) But here such a supposition would not hold. For Jacob and Esau had one father, one mother, and were twin sons, children of the same conception and birth. There was, therefore, only one point, humanly speaking, in which a preference might be shown, and that was by reason of the right of the firstborn. But this very factor was disregarded by God when it was said to Rebecca: The greater, the older, shall serve the smaller, the younger, Gen_25:21-26. By the will of God and through His power Jacob, the younger, representing the Jewish nation, received the promise of God, became the bearer of the Messianic prophecy, while Esau, the older, representing the Edomites, was not a member of the chosen people of God. This general statement regarding the preference of God and His deliberate choice is explained and placed into its relation to the argument of the apostle by three modifying clauses. The first is: For although they were not yet born, neither had done anything good or bad. This is for the information of people that were not acquainted with the situation and might therefore think that the decree of God was determined by the actions of the two sons. God in no way considered the natural condition or conduct of Esau and Jacob. The second explanation is: That the decree of God according to choice might remain. God had said to Rebecca that the older would serve the younger, in order that the purpose of God according to election might stand, be fulfilled and realized. God had firmly determined to accept Jacob's offspring as His people and to reveal to them His judgments and testimonies, according to which the Savior of the world should issue from Jacob. This was a selection, or choice; God chose the younger son of Rebecca for His purpose. Jacob, not Esau, was to be the progenitor of the people of God, was to transmit the promise of the inheritance, was to be the forefather of the Redeemer Himself. The third modifying clause is: Not of works, but of Him that called. The statement of God to Rebecca was not made on the basis of works, not in consideration of a future better conduct of the younger son, but solely by reason of Him that called, because God, in His sovereign freedom, chose to make Jacob the bearer of the promise; by His words to the mother, God installed Jacob in his office as patriarch. And the call of Jacob was the consequence, the realization, of the selection of God.

The truth thus brought out is further confirmed by a passage from the Old Testament Scriptures: Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, Mal_1:2-3. The special distinction which was conferred upon Jacob according to the sovereign will of God was denied to Esau. Scripture here speaks in accord with a man's manner of judging the situation; in the case of men such treatment as is here described would be the effect of love and hatred; with God it is the manifestation of gracious love in the one case and the withholding of the same in the other. God bestowed upon Jacob and his descendants the prerogative of His revelation and of His presence, according to which He accepted the Jews as His people and entrusted to them His Word and promise. The entire passage, therefore, does not refer to the election of grace unto salvation, but only to the relative position of the Israelites and the Edomites over against the history of salvation. Ishmael as well as Esau may very well have been saved; there is no passage in Scriptures which compels us to assume their final condemnation. But the general trend of Paul's argument stands and is confirmed by this historical reference. Esau, being excluded from the inheritance of the promise, offers evidence of the fact that not all Israelites that are descendants of Abraham are Israelites in the true sense of the word. And even as Jacob was chosen by God for his prominent position in the history of salvation without any merit or worthiness in himself, so the spiritual children of God, the believers, are chosen from the midst of redeemed humanity by the merciful election of God.


Verses 14-18

The Divine Sovereignty and Its Result.

A serious objection answered:

v. 14. What shall we say, then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!

v. 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.

v. 16. So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

v. 17. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.

v. 18. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.

What inference shall we draw from the argument as presented in the first part of the chapter? The apostle makes ready to meet an objection which he anticipates, not only on the part of the Jews, but on the part of every person that might read these words, namely, that the sovereign freedom of God is essentially unjust. He shows that God does not act unjustly in His sovereign choice, since he claims for Himself in Scriptures the liberty both to favor and to harden as He will. With horror, therefore, the apostle rejects the insinuation: Surely we cannot sap that there is unrighteousness with God? By no means! The principles which the sovereign God chooses for His own actions cannot be unjust, even if our weak human understanding should feel inclined to draw that conclusion. And the apostle quotes a passage from the solemn interview of God with Moses, Exo_33:18-19, to prove His contention. God there said to Moses: Mercy I will show to whomsoever I will show mercy, and compassion I will have upon whomsoever I will have compassion. The mercy and compassion of God have their foundation in God only, in His mercy and compassion; they depend solely upon His own sovereign will; He is responsible to no one outside of Himself; He must render an account to no one but Himself; He is under no obligation to any man. It is important to note that these words were spoken in the case of Moses, for in His case, if in that of any person in the world, the Lord might have been induced to make an exception. But since the same rule was applied in his case as in that of all other men, Paul concludes: So, then, it is not a matter of him that wills nor of him that runs, but of God that manifests mercy. In no way is the merciful application of God's compassion dependent upon the efforts and endeavors of men, but solely upon God. And what God thus declares to be right and good by that token is right and good. The apostle rests his case upon two assumptions, namely, that the Scripture from which he quotes is the Word of God, and that no act of God can be actually unrighteous. And so he has answered every objection.

But still Paul is not satisfied. He wants to demonstrate also from the case of one that has experienced God's wrath and displeasure that there is no unrighteousness and injustice in God. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, Exo_9:16 : To this end have I had thee arise, come forward, appear in history, that I might show in thee My power, and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth. That was the reason why the Pharaoh of Scriptures appeared on the stage of history, that he might he an example of the revelation of God's power, the power which is able to effect the destruction of obstinate sinners. And this design of God having been accomplished, Exo_9:15-17, the account of the punishment of Pharaoh and the deliverance of the children of Israel was spread far and wide among the heathen nations and served to establish the judgment and justice, the glory of God. And so Moses concludes, taking Pharaoh as a type of the hardened sinners: So, then, God has mercy upon whom He will, but whom He will He hardens. The example of Pharaoh shows the terrible effect of self-hardening. God has thoughts of grace and mercy toward all men, He seriously wants the salvation of all men. He offers His gifts of mercy to all without exception, 1Ti_2:4; Rom_11:32; Eze_33:11. God had extended His call also to Pharaoh; He sent His messengers to him, He pleaded with him, He chastised him to lead him to the way of repentance and righteousness. But the proud king refused to heed each and every offer; he deliberately turned from the attempts of God to direct his feet to the way of peace. And therefore God finally delivered him to his evil mind and intention; He withdrew His hand, His saving grace, from him. That was the judgment by which the heart of Pharaoh was hardened.


Verses 19-21

Silencing the reasonable objector:

v. 19. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?

v. 20. Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

v. 21. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?

Paul here introduces the objection, not of a humble seeker after truth, but of a truly modern faultfinder, who prides himself upon his intellect and logic. Hearing that God withdraws His gracious hand from the hardened sinner, such a one might ask, why does God go on finding fault? For His expressed will, who will withstand? The blasphemous objector presents the thought that, if God seriously wanted to manifest His grace and mercy to all men, He certainly could do so. And who could resist Him? The answer is implied: No one! If God employs His sovereign majesty and glory in the performance of any work, His almighty power will always bring the attempt to a successful conclusion. But God does not choose to deal with men in this manner in the matter of their salvation. He works through the means of the Gospel and the Sacraments, without any arbitrary application of sovereign power. If a person, therefore, consistently rejects the means of grace and refuses to heed all the attempts of God, in whatever way shown, then his self-hardening is justly punished by the withdrawal of God's grace, and he has only himself to blame for his damnation. God is not responsible for evil, and the blame for a person's hardening cannot be laid to His charge.

The apostle, therefore, does not even choose to show the fallacy and foolishness of the opponent's argument, but introduces a counter-question containing a distinct reproof for the irreverent spirit with which men judge the acts of God: Yes indeed, man, who are you that reply to God? How will any mere man dare to call God to account or to question His justice? Man's insignificance and weakness in comparison with the perfection of the great God is so great that even the suspicion as though He were in any way guilty of injustice is irreverence and presumption. Surely the thing formed will not say to him that formed it, Why do you make me thus? Or has not the potter power over the clay out of the same lump or mass to make one vessel to honor, the other to dishonor? The apostle places an alternative before the eyes of his opponent, either to recognize the absolute authority of God in silence, or to make the preposterous claim that the potter has no power over the clay which he uses to form vessels therefrom. The figure employed by the apostle is one often found in the Old Testament, and in similar thought connections, Isa_29:16; Isa_45:9; Isa_64:7; Jer_18:6. The very thought that a vessel made by a potter should object to the form and to the intended use for which it is designed seems so foolish that no answer is necessary. But just as preposterous it is, according to Paul's argument, for any person in the world to call God to account for the manner in which He governs the world. God, as Creator and Sovereign, has the right to have mercy upon whom He will, and to harden whom He will, in the sense as shown above. The apostle does not go beyond that fact, nor does he enter the realm of speculation. He wants no conclusions drawn that tend to provoke rebellion. Note: For a Christian to indulge in speculation regarding doctrines which God has not revealed in His Word is not only a waste of time, but very often leads to a false understanding of the truths that are plainly set forth in the infallible Book of God.


Verses 22-29

God's power exerted in the interest of men:

v. 22. What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,

v. 23, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory,

v. 24. even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

v. 25. As He saith also in Hosea, I will call them My people which were not My people, and her beloved which was not beloved.

v. 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.

v. 27. Isaiah also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved;

v. 28. for He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

v. 29. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah.

If the question is one merely of right on the part of God, then the answer can be only that which St. Paul gave, vv. 19-21. But a different question entirely is that, whether God makes use of this absolute sovereignty and power with regard to the eternal fate of man, his salvation or condemnation. But if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has borne in much long-suffering the vessels of wrath destined to condemnation! Will the reasonable objections still be maintained? Although God, in carrying out the judgment of hardening and condemnation upon the sinners, thus wanted to exhibit His wrath and make known His power, yet He bore the vessels of this wrath previously with the greatest patience. Men had incurred God's wrath, they deserved the full measure of His indignation and anger. But the Lord was full of mercy and long-suffering; His patience had the purpose of leading the sinners to repentance, 2Pe_3:9. Even though the sinners were altogether fitted for destruction, still God had patience with them; the measure of their transgression is full to overflowing, and yet God does not pour out upon them the vials of His wrath. He leaves no stone unturned in the effort to bring them to their senses. This is the other side of the essence of God, in which His love and mercy comes into consideration. This is the manner in which the patience of God is manifested, as many examples from history will demonstrate. And these facts take away all strength from the opponent's argument.

But God had also a second object in view in enduring the vessels of wrath: in order to make known the wealth of His glory upon the vessels of mercy which He has prepared before unto glory, us, whom He also has called, not only of Jews, but also of Gentiles. The very fact that God showed such an abundance of patience in the case of the vessels of wrath incidentally had the object to give a proof and manifestation of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, the believers, in whom His glorious purpose is realized. By calling the believers from the midst of both the Jews and the Gentiles, by converting them to Christ, He has glorified Himself, Eph_1:6; His work has redounded to His own praise and honor. For by the call of God the vessels of mercy have received His mercy, He has made them the recipients and bearers of His grace in Jesus Christ. And the same people have been prepared beforehand for the glory of heaven, Mat_25:34 : both their call and their entrance into glory is a result of God's counsel of grace. Thus God glorified Himself upon the vessels of mercy through the manifestation of His grace, and at the same time He gathered for Himself, from Jews and Gentiles, a people that here sees and enjoys the abundance of His goodness and mercy and will finally behold His glory in all eternity.

These facts St. Paul now substantiates by a reference to the Old Testament Scriptures, giving first of all a free quotation from Hosea, chap. 2:3, to show that God's people were to be gathered from the Gentiles also: I will call that which is not My people My people, and her who is not beloved, beloved; and it will be in the place where it was said to them, My people you are not, there will they be called the sons of the living God. See 1Pe_2:10. Although the prophet refers to the readmission of Israel as the people of God, Paul's quotation of the passage in favor of the acceptance of the Gentiles is fully justified, for the words incidentally indicate the manner in which God at all times accepts strangers into communion with Him. Out of the land of the heathen, from out of the midst of the Gentiles, from all nations on earth, the Lord wanted to gather and is gathering to Himself His Church. He is extending His mercy, calling, converting the heathen also, making them His own, to live under Him in His kingdom, to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

But St. Paul brings quotations also to substantiate His statement that God is calling the members of His Church from the midst of the Jews. He refers to Isa_10:22-23, where Isaiah calls out over Israel: If the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved; for the word, the oracle of God, is brought to an end and fully decided upon in righteousness; for the judgment will be quickly carried out. It is a final and decisive work which the Lord executes in the land by saving the remnant of Israel in the midst of the general destruction which comes upon the obstinate sinners. When the great mass of Israel is struck by the tidal wave of God's judgment of destruction, the Lord will save a remnant, will bring a few of them to the knowledge of their Savior, the true Messiah. The second quotation from Isaiah. chap. 1:9, is in verbal agreement with the Greek translation: If the Lord of Sabaoth had not left us a seed, as Sodom we should have become and been made like unto Gomorrah. Over the great majority of the Jewish people the judgment of God was poured out from the time of Isaiah to the final destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. According to man's judgment, the end would have been the annihilation of the Jewish race, as in the fate which overtook Sodom and Gomorrah. But the Lord preserved for Himself a seed, an escaped part, a remnant, saved for future growth, the little band of true Israelites that accepted Jesus as their Redeemer. And thus, just as Paul contends, the Lord has chosen His own from both Gentiles and Jews, gathering them unto Himself into His Church. Therefore, also, every objection to the work of God must be withdrawn, all offense must be acknowledged to be wrong and foolish. The facts here presented are bound to remove all false conceptions of God. If we but keep the love and mercy of God before our eyes, as we have experienced them so abundantly, then the only sentiment to be found in our hearts will be a feeling of joy and gratitude over the miracles of God's grace, as shown to us daily.


Verses 30-33

The conclusion:

v. 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.

v. 31. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

v. 32. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the Law. For they stumbled at the stumbling-stone;

v. 33. as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offense; and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.

The apostle had shown that God was building His Church by calling His own from among the Gentiles and from a small remnant of Israel, the great majority of the Jewish people, the nation as such, being rejected. What conclusion is to be drawn from these facts, which agreed exactly with the prophecies? Paul brings the answer in the form of a paradox, in which the words sound like a contradiction: The Gentiles, which have not followed after righteousness, obtained righteousness, but the righteousness of faith. The Gentiles made no attempt to become perfect by the keeping of the Law, they did not concern themselves about the righteousness of life as required by God's holy Law. But in the Word of the Gospel the righteousness was placed before them, not that they were made holy and perfect, but that they were given righteousness by faith. God wrought faith in their hearts through the Gospel, and through this faith they seized righteousness; God declared them to be righteous, He looked upon them as though they were perfectly pure and righteous. And this fact the apostle mentions for the sake of emphasizing the condition of the Jews. But Israel, following after, earnestly seeking, the law of righteousness, did not attain to that law. The Jews had the Mosaic Law, and they believed that they could fulfill this Law perfectly and thus obtain the righteousness which would make them acceptable before God through their works. But all these efforts proved futile; Israel did not come up to the demands of the Law, it could not come up to the requirements which it sought. An external veneer of right living the Jews managed to acquire, but the true spiritual fulfillment of the Law they did not attain. Since, however, perfect righteousness is a condition of salvation, the rejection of the Jews, wrath and condemnation, followed as a matter of course.

And the connection is brought out in the last verses. Why did Israel never attain to that point that it was in perfect agreement with the Law? Why did the Jews fail to secure righteousness? Because they sought after it not by faith, but, as people will commonly say, as though they could obtain it, by works of the Law. The Law being inadequate for the needs of the sinners, God had proposed a method of justification which alone was suitable for sinners. But of this they were willfully ignorant; they rejected the perfect righteousness prepared for them; they refused to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And thus they stumbled over the stone of offense, the Messiah Himself; as had been predicted, they took offense at the plan of salvation revealed in Jesus Christ and made possible by His vicarious sacrifice. They stumbled over Him and thereby came to grief. And thus the prophecy of Isa_28:16; Isa_8:13-15, was fulfilled, as its content is briefly given by Paul: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he that believes on Him shall not be put to shame. The precious stone which the Lord laid as a foundation and corner-stone in His spiritual temple is Jesus, the only Source of salvation. But Israel has repudiated the redemption of this Messiah, and therefore He has become to the disobedient, unbelieving people a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. That is God's judgment upon the willful despisers of His grace and method of salvation: they take offense at Christ and the Gospel and thus are finally brought to a point where they can no longer accept the redemption and are given up to condemnation and destruction. Note: He that rejects the plan and method of salvation proposed by God, and tries to obtain righteousness by his own works and fulfillment of the Law, will find himself in the position of the unbelieving Jews and will share their condemnation.

Summary

The apostle shows that the promise of God to the patriarchs had not been without effect, but had found its application in the spiritual children of Abraham; that God indeed has sovereign power to show mercy and to harden, but that he actually has shown great patience toward the disobedient people, and has gathered His Church out of Gentiles and Jews, the nation as such being rejected on account of its repudiation of the Messiah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/romans-9.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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