Romans 9

Listen to Romans 9

God's Sovereign Choice

1 1I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit--
2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3 For 2I could wish that I myself were 3accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen 4according to the flesh.
4 They are 5Israelites, and to them belong 6the adoption, 7the glory, 8the covenants, 9the giving of the law, 10the worship, and 11the promises.
5 To them belong 12the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ 13who is God over all, 14blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
7 and not all are children of Abraham 15because they are his offspring, but 16"Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but 17the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
9 For this is what the promise said: 18"About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son."
10 And not only so, but 19also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,
11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of 20him who calls--
12 she was told, 21"The older will serve the younger."
13 As it is written, 22"Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14 What shall we say then? 23Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!
15 For he says to Moses, 24"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 25"For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For 26who can resist his will?"
20 But who are you, O man, 27to answer back to God? 28Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"
21 29Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump 30one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience 31vessels of wrath 32prepared for destruction,
23 in order to make known 33the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he 34has prepared beforehand for glory--
24 even us whom he 35has called, 36not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
25 As indeed he says in Hosea, 37"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'"
26 38"And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 39'sons of the living God.'"
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: 40"Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea, 41only a remnant of them will be saved,
28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay."
29 And as Isaiah predicted, "If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, 42we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah."

Israel's Unbelief

30 What shall we say, then? 43That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, 44a righteousness that is by faith;
31 but that Israel 45who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness[d]46did not succeed in reaching that law.
32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the 47stumbling stone,
33 as it is written, 48"Behold, I am laying in Zion 49a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; 50and whoever believes in him will not be 51put to shame."

Romans 9 Commentary

Chapter 9

The apostle's concern that his countrymen were strangers to the gospel. (1-5) The promises are made good to the spiritual seed of Abraham. (6-13) Answers to objections against God's sovereign conduct, in exercising mercy and justice. (14-24) This sovereignty is in God's dealing both with Jews and Gentiles. (25-29) The falling short of the Jews is owing to their seeking justification, not by faith, but by the works of the law. (30-33)

Verses 1-5 Being about to discuss the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, and to show that the whole agrees with the sovereign electing love of God, the apostle expresses strongly his affection for his people. He solemnly appeals to Christ; and his conscience, enlightened and directed by the Holy Spirit, bore witness to his sincerity. He would submit to be treated as "accursed," to be disgraced, crucified; and even for a time be in the deepest horror and distress; if he could rescue his nation from the destruction about to come upon them for their obstinate unbelief. To be insensible to the eternal condition of our fellow-creatures, is contrary both to the love required by the law, and the mercy of the gospel. They had long been professed worshippers of Jehovah. The law, and the national covenant which was grounded thereon, belonged to them. The temple worship was typical of salvation by the Messiah, and the means of communion with God. All the promises concerning Christ and his salvation were given to them. He is not only over all, as Mediator, but he is God blessed for ever.

Verses 6-13 The rejection of the Jews by the gospel dispensation, did not break God's promise to the patriarchs. The promises and threatenings shall be fulfilled. Grace does not run in the blood; nor are saving benefits always found with outward church privileges. Not only some of Abraham's seed were chosen, and others not, but God therein wrought according to the counsel of his own will. God foresaw both Esau and Jacob as born in sin, by nature children of wrath even as others. If left to themselves they would have continued in sin through life; but for wise and holy reasons, not made known to us, he purposed to change Jacob's heart, and to leave Esau to his perverseness. This instance of Esau and Jacob throws light upon the Divine conduct to the fallen race of man. The whole Scripture shows the difference between the professed Christian and the real believer. Outward privileges are bestowed on many who are not the children of God. There is, however, full encouragement to diligent use of the means of grace which God has appointed.

Verses 14-24 Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only, ( Romans 13:9 ) . God is bound no further than he has been pleased to bind himself by his own covenant and promise, which is his revealed will. And this is, that he will receive, and not cast out, those that come to Christ; but the drawing of souls in order to that coming, is an anticipating, distinguishing favour to whom he will. Why does he yet find fault? This is not an objection to be made by the creature against his Creator, by man against God. The truth, as it is in Jesus, abases man as nothing, as less than nothing, and advances God as sovereign Lord of all. Who art thou that art so foolish, so feeble, so unable to judge the Divine counsels? It becomes us to submit to him, not to reply against him. Would not men allow the infinite God the same sovereign right to manage the affairs of the creation, as the potter exercises in disposing of his clay, when of the same lump he makes one vessel to a more honourable, and one to a meaner use? God could do no wrong, however it might appear to men. God will make it appear that he hates sin. Also, he formed vessels filled with mercy. Sanctification is the preparation of the soul for glory. This is God's work. Sinners fit themselves for hell, but it is God who prepares saints for heaven; and all whom God designs for heaven hereafter, he fits for heaven now. Would we know who these vessels of mercy are? Those whom God has called; and these not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles. Surely there can be no unrighteousness in any of these Divine dispensations. Nor in God's exercising long-suffering, patience, and forbearance towards sinners under increasing guilt, before he brings utter destruction upon them. The fault is in the hardened sinner himself. As to all who love and fear God, however such truths appear beyond their reason to fathom, yet they should keep silence before him. It is the Lord alone who made us to differ; we should adore his pardoning mercy and new-creating grace, and give diligence to make our calling and election sure.

Verses 25-29 The rejecting of the Jews, and the taking in the Gentiles, were foretold in the Old Testament. It tends very much to the clearing of a truth, to observe how the Scripture is fulfilled in it. It is a wonder of Divine power and mercy that there are any saved: for even those left to be a seed, if God had dealt with them according to their sins, had perished with the rest. This great truth this Scripture teaches us. Even among the vast number of professing Christians it is to be feared that only a remnant will be saved.

Verses 30-33 The Gentiles knew not their guilt and misery, therefore were not careful to procure a remedy. Yet they attained to righteousness by faith. Not by becoming proselytes to the Jewish religion, and submitting to the ceremonial law; but by embracing Christ, and believing in him, and submitting to the gospel. The Jews talked much of justification and holiness, and seemed very ambitious to be the favourites of God. They sought, but not in the right way, not in the humbling way, not in the appointed way. Not by faith, not by embracing Christ, depending upon Christ, and submitting to the gospel. They expected justification by observing the precepts and ceremonies of the law of Moses. The unbelieving Jews had a fair offer of righteousness, life, and salvation, made them upon gospel terms, which they did not like, and would not accept. Have we sought to know how we may be justified before God, seeking that blessing in the way here pointed out, by faith in Christ, as the Lord our Righteousness? Then we shall not be ashamed in that awful day, when all refuges of lies shall be swept away, and the Divine wrath shall overflow every hiding-place but that which God hath prepared in his own Son.

Cross References 51

  • 1. 2 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 2:7; [2 Corinthians 12:19; Galatians 1:20]; See Romans 1:9
  • 2. [Exodus 32:32]
  • 3. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8, 9
  • 4. [Romans 11:14]
  • 5. [ver. 6; Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 6:16]
  • 6. [Exodus 4:22]; See Romans 8:15
  • 7. Exodus 40:34; 1 Samuel 4:21; 1 Kings 8:11
  • 8. Genesis 17:2; Deuteronomy 29:14; Galatians 4:24; Ephesians 2:12
  • 9. Deuteronomy 4:14; [Psalms 147:19]
  • 10. Hebrews 9:1(Gk.); [Romans 12:1]
  • 11. [Ephesians 2:12]; See John 4:22; Acts 13:32
  • 12. Romans 11:28
  • 13. [Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:16-19]
  • 14. Romans 1:25; John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Hebrews 1:8
  • 15. [Galatians 4:23]; See John 8:33
  • 16. Hebrews 11:18; Cited from Genesis 21:12; [Galatians 3:29]
  • 17. Galatians 4:23, 28
  • 18. Cited from Genesis 18:10, 14; [Genesis 17:21]
  • 19. Genesis 25:21
  • 20. [Romans 4:17]; See Romans 8:28
  • 21. Cited from Genesis 25:23
  • 22. Cited from Malachi 1:2, 3
  • 23. Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 8:3; Job 34:10; Psalms 92:15
  • 24. Cited from Exodus 33:19
  • 25. Cited from Exodus 9:16
  • 26. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 9:12; Daniel 4:35
  • 27. Job 33:13
  • 28. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9
  • 29. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6
  • 30. 2 Timothy 2:20
  • 31. [ver. 21, 23; Acts 9:15]
  • 32. [Proverbs 16:4; 1 Peter 2:8]
  • 33. Ephesians 3:16; See Romans 2:4
  • 34. [Romans 8:29]
  • 35. See Romans 8:28
  • 36. See Romans 3:29
  • 37. Cited from Hosea 2:23; [1 Peter 2:10]
  • 38. Cited from Hosea 1:10
  • 39. See Romans 8:14; Matthew 16:16
  • 40. Cited from Isaiah 10:22, 23; [Hosea 1:10]
  • 41. Romans 11:5
  • 42. Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11
  • 43. [Romans 10:20]
  • 44. Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21, 22; Romans 10:6; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:24; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 11:7
  • 45. [Romans 10:2, 3; Romans 11:7]
  • 46. [Galatians 5:4]
  • 47. See 1 Peter 2:8
  • 48. 1 Peter 2:6, 7; Cited from Isaiah 28:16; [Psalms 118:22]
  • 49. Isaiah 8:14
  • 50. Romans 10:11
  • 51. Isaiah 49:23; Joel 2:26, 27

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Or brothers and sisters
  • [b]. Greek not of him who wills or runs
  • [c]. Or children of Israel
  • [d]. Greek a law of righteousness

Chapter Summary


The apostle having discoursed of justification and sanctification, and of the privileges of justified and sanctified ones, proceeds to treat of predestination, the source and spring of all the blessings of grace; and to observe how this distinguishing act of God's sovereign will has taken place, both among Jews and Gentiles; in treating of which, he knew he should go contrary to the sense of his countrymen the Jews, who have a notion that all Israel shall have a part in, or inherit the world to come {q}: and that the Gentiles will be for ever miserable; and nothing was more disagreeable to them, than to talk of their rejection of God, and the calling of the Gentiles; wherefore that it might be manifest, that it was not out of pique and ill will to them, that the apostle said the things hereafter related; he expresses the most cordial affection to them imaginable, and which he introduces in Ro 9:1, by way of appeal to Christ, who knew the truth of what he was about to say, and who could, together with the Spirit of God and his own conscience, testify for him that it was no lie: the thing he appeals for the truth of, is in Ro 9:2, that the salvation of the Jews lay near his heart; that it was no pleasure to him to think or speak of their rejection, but was what gave him continual pain and uneasiness: and his great desire for their good is expressed in a very strong and uncommon manner, Ro 9:3, the reasons of it are partly the relation they stood in to him, being his brethren and kinsmen; and partly the many privileges they had been favoured with of God; an enumeration of which is given, Ro 9:4,5, and foreseeing an objection, he prevents it, which might be made, that if the Jews were cast off, the promise of God to that people that he would be their God, would become void, and the preaching the Gospel of Christ to them of no effect; to which he answers by distinguishing between Israel and Israel, or the elect of God among them, and those that were not; wherefore though the latter were rejected according to the purpose of God, the promise and preaching of the word had their effect in the former, Ro 9:6, and that there was such a distinction, he proves from the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, who were both Abraham's seed; yet one was a child of promise, and the other a child of the flesh, and were emblematical of the children of the promise, and the children of the flesh among that people; Ro 9:7-10, and further confirms this by the instance of Jacob and Esau, who were born of the same parents, and were twins; and yet one was in the favour of God, and the other not; and that this was owing not to works, but to the sovereign will of God in election, he proves by observing that this was before good or evil were done by either of them, Ro 9:11, and that this was notified to Rebekah before, Ro 9:12, as appears from a passage in Ge 25:23, and by another passage in Mal 1:2,3, which is cited, Ro 9:13, then an objection is started, Ro 9:14, that if God loves one, and hates another, both being in equal circumstances, as Jacob and Esau were, he must be guilty of unrighteousness; which he answers and removes, first by a detestation of such a charge against God, and then by producing testimonies out of the books of Moses, proving both election and reprobation, as being not of the works of men, but of the will of God; the former of these he proves, Ro 9:15, from Ex 33:19, by which it appears, that the choice of men to salvation is not according to the will of man, but according to the grace and love of God, Ro 9:16, the latter he proves by the case of Pharaoh, Ro 9:17, and the Scripture relating to that, Ex 9:16, and from both testimonies concludes, Ro 9:18, that God's having mercy on one, and hardening another, are according to his sovereign will and pleasure; then another objection rises, up, if so, God has no reason to find fault with men that are hardened in sin, since they are according to his will, and in sinning do but fulfil it, and which no man resists; and this objection is formed in a very pert and sneering manner, and insinuates that God is cruel and acts unreasonably, Ro 9:19, to which he answers, by putting the objector in mind that he was a man, a mere creature that started it, and that it was God against whom it was made; and by observing the folly and madness of replying against God, and the absurdity of such a procedure, taken from the consideration of the one being a creature, and the other the Creator, Ro 9:20, and by instancing in the case of the potter, who has power over his clay, to form it in what shape, and for what use he pleases, Ro 9:21, and accommodates this, both to the affair of election and reprobation, and to the business of the latter first, Ro 9:22, where he observes the end of God in it to show forth his power and wrath, and describes the subjects of it, which clears him from injustice, and points at the patience of God towards them, which frees him from the charge of cruelty, Ro 9:22, and then proceeds to apply the metaphor before used, to the objects of election styled vessels of mercy, and the end of the Lord to manifest the riches of his glory in them, and the method he takes to bring them to eternal happiness, by preparing them for it by grace, Ro 9:23, which is done in the effectual calling, the objects of which are both Jews and Gentiles, Ro 9:24, That it is the will of God that the Gentiles should be called, he proves, Ro 9:25,26, from some passages in Hosea, Ho 2:23, 1:10, and that God had chosen, and so would call some among the Jews, he clearly makes appear, Ro 9:27-29, from some prophecies of Isaiah, Isa 10:22,23, 1:10, and then he concludes the chapter by observing the free and distinguishing grace of God, in the calling of the Gentiles, and the justification of them by the righteousness of Christ; that such who were far off from it, and sought not after it, should enjoy it, Ro 9:30, when the Israelites, who were diligent and zealous in seeking after a righteousness to justify them before God, yet did not arrive to one, Ro 9:31, the reasons of which are given, Ro 9:32, because it was not the righteousness of faith, or the righteousness of Christ received by faith they sought; but a legal one, and by works which can never be attained by sinful men: they sought after a wrong righteousness, and in a wrong way, because they stumbled at Christ, and rejected him and his righteousness; and this removes an objection which is suggested in the two preceding verses, that God is unrighteous in calling the Gentiles, who never sought after righteousness, and in rejecting the Jews that followed after one: and that they did stumble at Christ and his righteousness, is no other than what was foretold in Isa 8:14, and that whoever believes in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, shall be saved, he suggests is a doctrine agreeably to Isa 28:16, which passages are referred to, Ro 9:33.

{q} Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1.

Romans 9 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.