Romans 9

Paul’s Anguish Over Israel

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—
2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race,
4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised![a] Amen.

God’s Sovereign Choice

6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[b]
8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”[c]
10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac.
11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:
12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d]
13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e]
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!
15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]
16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g]
18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?”
20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ”[h]
21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?
23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”[i]
26 and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ”[j]
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”[k]
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”[l]

Israel’s Unbelief

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;
31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.
32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[m]

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 60

  • 1. Psalms 15:2; 2 Corinthians 11:10; Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:7
  • 2. S Romans 1:9
  • 3. Exodus 32:32
  • 4. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22
  • 5. S Acts 22:5
  • 6. Romans 11:14
  • 7. ver 6
  • 8. Exodus 4:22; Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 7:6
  • 9. Hebrews 9:5
  • 10. Genesis 17:2; Deuteronomy 4:13; Acts 3:25; Ephesians 2:12
  • 11. Psalms 147:19
  • 12. Hebrews 9:1
  • 13. S Acts 13:32; S Galatians 3:16
  • 14. Romans 11:28
  • 15. Matthew 1:1-16; Romans 1:3
  • 16. John 1:1; Colossians 2:9
  • 17. Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 11:31
  • 18. S Hebrews 4:12
  • 19. Romans 2:28,29; Galatians 6:16
  • 20. Genesis 21:12; Hebrews 11:18
  • 21. S Romans 8:14
  • 22. S Galatians 3:16
  • 23. Genesis 18:10,14
  • 24. Genesis 25:21
  • 25. ver 16
  • 26. Romans 8:28
  • 27. Genesis 25:23
  • 28. Malachi 1:2,3
  • 29. S Romans 8:31
  • 30. 2 Chronicles 19:7
  • 31. Exodus 33:19
  • 32. Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5
  • 33. Exodus 9:16; Exodus 14:4; Psalms 76:10
  • 34. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 14:4,17; Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20; Romans 11:25
  • 35. Romans 11:19; 1 Corinthians 15:35; James 2:18
  • 36. Romans 3:7
  • 37. 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Daniel 4:35
  • 38. Job 1:22; Job 9:12; Job 40:2
  • 39. Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6
  • 40. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 10:15
  • 41. 2 Timothy 2:20
  • 42. S Romans 2:4
  • 43. Proverbs 16:4
  • 44. S Romans 2:4
  • 45. Romans 8:30
  • 46. S Romans 8:28
  • 47. S Romans 3:29
  • 48. Hosea 2:23; 1 Peter 2:10
  • 49. Hosea 1:10; S Matthew 16:16; S Romans 8:14
  • 50. Genesis 22:17; Hosea 1:10
  • 51. 2 Kings 19:4; Jeremiah 44:14; Jeremiah 50:20; Joel 2:32; Romans 11:5
  • 52. Isaiah 10:22,23
  • 53. James 5:4
  • 54. Isaiah 1:9; Genesis 19:24-29; Deuteronomy 29:23; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 50:40
  • 55. S Romans 8:31
  • 56. Romans 1:17; Romans 3:22; Romans 4:5,13; Romans 10:6; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9; Hebrews 11:7
  • 57. Deuteronomy 6:25; Isaiah 51:1; Romans 10:2,3; Romans 11:7
  • 58. Galatians 5:4
  • 59. 1 Peter 2:8
  • 60. Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16; Romans 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6,8

Footnotes 13

Chapter Summary

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 Commentaries