Romans 9:1-29

1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.
2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief
3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.
4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.
5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!
7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too.
8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
9 For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins.
11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes;
12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.”
13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”
14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not!
15 For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”
16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”
18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
19 Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.
25 Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.”
26 And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”
27 And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved.
28 For the LORD will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.”
29 And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.”

Romans 9:1-29 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO ROMANS 9

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 9:1-29 In-Context

1 With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it.
2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief
3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.
4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.
5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!
7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too.
8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
9 For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins.
11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes;
12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.”
13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”
14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not!
15 For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”
16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.
17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”
18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
19 Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.
25 Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.”
26 And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”
27 And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved.
28 For the LORD will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.”
29 And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.”
30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place.
31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.
32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.
33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

Footnotes 14

  • [a]. Greek my brothers.
  • [b]. Greek chosen for sonship.
  • [c]. Or May God, the one who rules over everything, be praised forever. Amen.
  • [d]. Gen 21:12 .
  • [e]. Gen 18:10, 14 .
  • [f]. Greek she conceived children through this one man.
  • [g]. Gen 25:23 .
  • [h]. Mal 1:2-3 .
  • [i]. Exod 33:19 .
  • [j]. Exod 9:16 (Greek version).
  • [k]. Hos 2:23 .
  • [l]. Greek sons of the living God. Hos 1:10 .
  • [m]. Isa 10:22-23 (Greek version).
  • [n]. Isa 1:9 (Greek version).
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