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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Romans 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

Romans 9:1-3. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

The apostle is evidently about to make an extraordinary statement — a statement which would probably not be believed, and therefore, he gives as a preface the most solemn asseverations that are permitted to Christian men declaring that he is speaking the truth, and also that the Holy Ghost is bearing witness with his conscience that it is so — that he so loves the souls of his fellow-countrymen that, though the thing could never be, yet in a sort of ecstasy of love he could devote himself to anything so long as his countrymen might but be saved. “My kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Romans 9:4-5. 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: Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

The apostle never omits an opportunity of magnifying his Master. Though it did not seem to be called for by the immediate subject in hand yet he must put in a doxology to the name of Jesus. “Who is over all; God blessed for ever. Amen.” How any believers in Scripture ever get to be disbelievers in the Deity of Christ is altogether astounding. If there is anything taught in the Word of God, it is assuredly that Paul comforts himself in a measure by the doctrine of election, which is fully spoken to in this chapter. My subject leads me to read again at the 10th chapter.

This exposition consisted of readings from Romans 9:1-5; and Romans 10.


Verses 1-25

The Jews thought that God must certainly save them. They thought they had a birth claim. Were they not the children of Abraham? Surely they had some right to it. This chapter battles the question of right. No man has any right to the grace of God. The terms are inconsistent. There can be no right to that which is free favor. We are all condemned criminals, and if pardoned, it must be as the result of pure mercy, absolute mercy, for desert there is none in any one of us.

Romans 9:1-2. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

He never thought about his unbelieving brethren, without the deepest imaginable regret. How far is this from the spirit of those who look upon the ungodly without tears — settle it down as a matter that cannot be altered, and take it as a question of hard fate, but are never troubled about it. Not so the Apostle. He had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart.

Romans 9:3. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

He had just that self-sacrificing spirit of Moses, that he would lose anything and everything if they might but be saved. And this is the spirit which ought to actuate every Church of Christ. The Church that is always caring for her own maintenance is no church. The Church that would be willing to be destroyed if it could save the sons of men — which feels as if, whatever her shame or sorrow, it would be nothing if she could but save sinners — that Church is like the Lord, of whom we read, “He saved others: himself he could not save.” Oh! blessed heart-break over sinful men, which makes men willing to lose everything if they might, but bless and win men to Christ! “My kinsmen,” says he, “according to the flesh.”

Romans 9:4-5. 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; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

What dignity has God put upon ancient Israel! How favored far beyond any of us in these particulars! They had the light, when the rest of the world was in darkness. Theirs was the law, and theirs the covenant promises. Above all, of them it was, that Christ came. Our Saviour was a Jew. Forever must that race be had in respectful honour, and we must pray for their salvation.

Romans 9:6-7. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Now, the Apostle is getting to his point. You Jews claim to have the mercy of God because you are of the seed of Abraham; but there is nothing in that, says he, for God made a distinct choice of Isaac to the rejection of Ishmael, as he did afterwards of Jacob, and then Esau was left out.

Romans 9:8. That is, thy flesh 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.

Now, Isaac was not the child of Abraham’s flesh. He was born according to promise, when his mother was past age, and his father well stricken in years. His was the birth according to the promise, and that is the way the line of grace runs — not according to the flesh, but according to the promise. If, then, all my hope of heaven lies upon my being a child of godly parents, it is an Israelitish hope, and good for nothing. If my hope of heaven lies upon my having been born according to the promise of God —born of his grace and of his power — in that line the covenant stands. God is determined that it shall be so.

Romans 9:9-13. For this is the word of promise. At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

So, then, there is no claim of birth, for he that had the claim of birth, even Esau, is passed by. There is, indeed, no claim at all, for God gives freely, according to his own will, blessing the sons of men.

Romans 9:14. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

There is no unrighteousness, in anything that he does: and in the winding up of all affairs, it shall be seen that God was righteous as well as gracious.

Romans 9:15-16. 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. So then it is not or him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

That is where it must begin. When men are condemned, what can they appeal to, but the mercy of God? Where is the hope of men, but in the sovereignty of the Most High?

Romans 9:17-24. 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. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 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: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

There was the sting of it. They could not endure that God should in his divine sovereignty save Gentiles as well as Jews. But he has done so, and ‘he has sent the Gospel to us; while they, having refused it, are left in the darkness which they chose.

Romans 9:25. As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

Oh! what a splendid verse is this! Let some here who have been far from God until now, and never had a gracious thought, nevertheless, hear what he has done and will do again. “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved which was not beloved.”

This exposition consisted of readings from Exodus 3:1-14; Romans 9:1-25.


Verses 1-33

Paul begins by expressing his great sorrow because the Jews had rejected Christ.

Romans 9:1-3. I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

They hated Paul intensely; nothing could surpass the malice of the Jews against the man whom they reckoned to be an apostate from the true faith, because he had become a follower of Christ, the Nazarene. Yet note what is Paul’s feeling towards his cruel countrymen; he is willing, as it were, to put his own salvation in pawn if by doing so the Jews might but be saved. You must not measure these words by any hard grammatical rule, you must understand them as spoken out of the depths of great loving heart; and when such a heart as Paul had begins to talk, it speaks not according to the laws of logic, but according to its own immeasurable feelings. There were times when he almost thought that he would himself consent to be accursed, “anathema,” cast away, separated from Christ, if thereby he could · save the house of Israel, so great was his love towards them. Of course, this could not be; and no one understood better than Paul did that there is only one Substitute and one Sacrifice for sinners. He only mentioned this wish to show how dearly he loved the Jews, so that on their account he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. Do you, dear friends, feel that same concern about your brethren, your kinsmen according to the flesh? If they are not saved, do you greatly wonder that they are not, if you have no such concern about them? But when once your heart is brought to this pitch of agony about their souls, you will soon see them saved.

Romans 9:4-5. 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; Wwhose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

This was what troubled the apostle so much concerning the Jews, that they should have such extraordinary privileges, and yet should be cast away; most of all, that Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, should be of their race, bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh, and yet they would not receive him, or be saved by him. Oh, the terrible hardness of the human heart; and what poor things the richest privileges are unless the grace of God goes with them to give us the inner secret of true faith in Christ!

Romans 9:6. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.

Paul is always jealous lest anyone should suppose that the Word of God has failed, or that the purpose of God has come to naught.

Romans 9:6-7. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children:

Now he goes on to show that the blessings of God’s grace do not go according to carnal descent. It is true that God promised to bless the seed of Abraham, yet he meant that word “seed” in a very special sense.

Romans 9:7. But, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

By passing over Ishmael, God showed that there was nothing of saving in blood or birth. Ishmael was the firstborn son of Abraham; but he was passed by, for the promise was, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”

Romans 9:8-10. 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. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; —

When there were twins to be born of her; —

Romans 9:11-13. (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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Here were two children born at the same time; yet Esau was not of the true “seed.” It matters not how closely you may be connected with the people of God, unless you have a new heart and a right spirit yourself, you still do not belong to the covenant seed, for it is not of the flesh that this privilege comes, but God has chosen a spiritual seed according to his own good pleasure.

Romans 9:14. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Paul knew very well that there would always be some who would cry out against this doctrine, that men would say that God was partial and unjust. If he had not foreseen that the declaration of this doctrine would provoke such remarks, he would not have put it so: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.”

Romans 9:15-16. 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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

You know that the modern way of meeting objections to Scripture is to give up everything to the infidel, and then say that you have won him; but the true Christian way is to give up nothing at all, and if the truth is objectionable, to make it, if possible, still more objectionable, to turn the very hardest side it has right in front of the face of man, and to say, “This is God’s truth; refuse it at your peril.” I believe that half the attempts to win over unbelievers by toning down truth have simply been to the dishonouring of the truth and the destruction of the doubter, and that it would be always better to do as the apostle here does, — not to disavow the truth, but to proclaim it as fully, and faithfully, and plainly as possible. Let us again read what he here says: “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

Romans 9:17. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh,

Paul is now going to show the other side of the same truth: “The scripture saith unto Pharaoh,” —

Romans 9:17-19. 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. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Paul knew that the doctrine would be objected to on this ground; evidently he intended to assert something which was open to this objection, which would naturally suggest itself to men: “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Romans 9:20-25. Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

See the grand style in which God talks to men. He speaks after a royal fashion: “I will.” tie asks no man’s leave for what he will do: “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.”

Romans 9:26. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; —

Though he himself had said it,-

Romans 9:26. There shall they be called the children of the living God.

See the splendor of this divine sovereignty, which shows itself in wondrous, unexpected acts of grace, selecting and taking to itself those who seem to be self-condemned, and even condemned by himself, of whom he had said, “Ye are not my people.”

Romans 9:27-31. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Does it not seem strange that men who were outwardly sinful, who were utterly ignorant of any way of righteousness, and even indifferent to it, have been by the grace of God led to seek righteousness in the right way, namely, by faith in Christ, and they have found it, and God’s electing love is seen in them; while others, who seem very sincere and devout as to outward ritual, by following it and it alone, have missed their way, and never found the true righteousness? The sovereignty of God appears in the choosing of those who follow the way of faith, and the casting away of those who follow the way of mere outward righteousness. But why did Israel miss the way?

Romans 9:32-33. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence:

I say again that there have been great attempts made, with logical dynamite, to blow up this great rock of offence, and to clear away every difficulty from the path of the man who wants to be saved by his own method, and to make everything pleasant all round for him; but against this course of action we bear our continual protest, for it is not according to the mind of God, or the teaching of his Word: “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence.”

Romans 9:33. And whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

But if they believe not on him, they shall one day be ashamed; and, meanwhile, the eternal purpose of God shall still stand, he shall still be glorious whatever men shall do, or shall not do.


Verses 26-32

The Jews thought that God must certainly save them. They thought they had a birth claim. Were they not the children of Abraham? Surely they had some right to it. This chapter battles the question of right. No man has any right to the grace of God. The terms are inconsistent. But that same grace delights to save and bless even the perverse and rebellious who will yield to its blessed power.

Romans 9:26. 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.

That In the very same place where their sins made it patent and palpable they were not God’s people — in that very same place shall men confess that they are the children of the living God. Oh! what has not grace done?

Romans 9:27-29. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

God has a people, then, even in Israel with all its rejection; and he Always will have, for he will never make the seed of Abraham to be as Sodom and Gomorrha. He will love his own, and glorify himself in the midst of his people.

Romans 9:30. What shall we say then?

Why, say this: —

Romans 9:30. That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

For thousands of years they worshipped brutish idols and blocks and stones. Their philosophy was mixed with filthiness. Their lives were abhorrent to God. Even these at last have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, for the Gospel being preached among the Gentiles, they have believed in Jesus, and they are saved.

Romans 9:31. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Israel followed after the law of righteousness with many ceremonies and external washings, and wearings of phylacteries and bordered garments.

Alas poor Israel

Romans 9:32. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone;

And God is determined that they that are of the law shall not inherit it. He has made it a sovereign decree that the believer shall be justified and saved, and none else. They sought it not by faith, But as it were by the works of the law.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 9:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/romans-9.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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