Romans 9


Romans 9-11 form a separate section of this letter. If we removed it from the letter what remained would show no sign of having had anything taken out. You may convince yourself of this by looking, first, at the last two verses of Romans 8 (I say the last two verses, in order to give the sense of the passage) and then at the opening verse of Romans 12.

This is what we find; “For I am sure that neither.” “I appeal to you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable….”

You see how easily they flow together, eliminating the gap you made when you removed the Romans 9-11. Indeed, if you look at the opening words of Romans 9 you see immediately that the mood is quite different from that in which Romans 8 closes, and it has been suggested that what we have in Romans 9-11 is a discourse by Paul which he has placed in the letter at this point.

An interesting suggestion, of course! But it has to be said that there is no substantial evidence for it. However, there are certain suggestions of something in the style of the typical debate which went on in the synagogue, as you will see if you read Romans 9:14 / Romans 9:19 and Romans 11:1 / Romans 11:11 / Romans 11:19.

Having said this, it is still true that those three chapters are not as ‘out of place’ as might appear at first glance. Put them into context and you will recognize this, I think.

“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 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, 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. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” Romans 9:1-5

Brief Outlines of Chapters 9-11 – Vindication of God’s choices

1. Paul’s deep sympathy for the Jews, Romans 9:1-5.

2. God’s faithfulness vindicated although the Jews have been cut off, Romans 9:6-29.

3. Israel’s responsibility (Contrast between legal righteousness and that which is of faith) Romans 10:1-17.

4. Israel’s rejection is confirmed by the Scriptures, Romans 10:18-21.

5. Israel is not wholly cast off, Romans 11:1-10.

6. Principles that regulate the election of grace, Romans 11:11-32.

7. Paul’s praise, Romans 11:33-36.

Remember that Paul has been writing about the grace of God, which, he says, is extended to all mankind. And, whilst he is happy about this, he is understandably saddened by the fact that Israel, as a people, has rejected Christ and refused the grace of God, offered in the Gospel, he preached. Romans 9:2.

Of course, he realizes that there had been a time when he, personally, was in the same position, when he had opposed the Gospel and therefore he is able to feel for them all the more. His concern is expressed in moving language, in Romans 9:1-3.

“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 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”. Romans 9:1-3

‘I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying’, Paul gives a solemn affirmation that what he is about to say is the truth. ‘In Christ’, as one in right relationship with Him.

‘Conscience’, is the judgment of the mind which instantly approves or condemns one’s actions in accord with what he has been taught. 1 Timothy 1:5 / 1 Timothy 1:19 / 1 Timothy 3:9. He has always been taught to tell the truth; and so, his conscience is a true witness to the truthfulness of that which follows.

‘In the Holy Spirit’, in fellowship with, under the influence of, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And so, Paul did not want to leave any doubt in the mind of the Jew regarding his love for his people. Verse 2 is the truth to which he referred in verse 1. The reason he had great anguish in his heart for his brethren (fellow Jews) is because they were lost.

Romans 9:3 simply emphasises his great desire for Israel to be saved. Romans 10:1-2.

‘I could wish myself were accursed from Christ’ is given as proof of his deep interest in his fellow Jews. Not that he actually does so wish, but he could do so if such were allowed by God. Moses had the same desire, but God quickly replied by showing that it was impossible. Exodus 32:31-33.

The verse shows that his kinsmen were separated from Christ and, hence, from God. Also, Paul shows his unselfish love for them. He was willing to be accursed from Christ (eternally lost) if it would save the Jews.

“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. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!1 Amen.” Romans 9:4-5

In verses 4-5, he says that their rejection of the Gospel and their present lost condition is all the more tragic in view of their rich history. Notice that he still has a great feeling for them. He still calls them ‘my brethren’ and, ‘my kinsmen according to race’.

Now that is interesting!

He does not identify with them religiously but says according to race. And then he lists the things which marked them out as special, and unique. Paul now lists nine great blessings the Jews had received.

1. ‘Israelites’, the angel changed the name when Jacob wrestled with him. Being an Israelite was a great heritage and honour to the Israelites.

He calls them Israelites

Now, there were other names that he might have used in order to identify them. He might have called them Hebrews and that was a name of which they were understandably proud because it pointed to their descent from Abraham, the Hebrew, and the father of their race. Or he might have called them Jews, which in some ways would have been more historically accurate.

You will recall that the 10 northern tribes, which had constituted the kingdom of Israel, had gone into captivity in Assyria about 722 B.C., and had never returned as a nation, because they had been dispersed, as an act of policy, throughout the territories of the Assyrians,

Then, some 150 years later, the two tribes which made up the Kingdom of Judah, had been taken captive by the Babylonians and, after serving the 70 years which God had decreed, had come back again to their own land, the return from captivity which the prophets had spoken about. Now the name Jew dates from this time, the time of the return because it is a name that had its origin in the name Judah.

Therefore, when Paul was writing this letter, the people occupying the Promised Land, the land of Palestine, the Holy Land, as Zechariah 2:12 calls it, were, in fact, Jews, from the Southern Kingdom, which had survived captivity. And, remember, had survived captivity, because God’s purpose was that the Messiah should come from Judah.

But, Paul uses the name Israelites. Now, why? Well, because it reminds us that these, the Israelites descendants of Jacob, who, having been brought out of Egyptian Bondage, became God’s special people when, at Sinai, God made a covenant with them.

That great company that Moses led to freedom arrived at Sinai hardly knowing who they were, having spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves. But they left Sinai knowing g that they were the chosen, covenanted people of God. And it is this that Paul has in mind, this fact to which he draws attention, by choosing the name Israelites.

In Romans 9:4 he emphasizes this again when he says, “To them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh is Christ.”

Consider the claims which Paul makes for these people who, sadly, have rejected the Gospel.

2. ‘Adoption’, ‘Sonship’. It was national, in the flesh, and not in the Spirit.

If you have the A.V., you will find that it has the word adoption.

“To them belongs the adoption”. This points to the fact that God called Israel the nation, His SON.

Exodus 4:22 Moses is instructed to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is My son, My Firstborn”. Jeremiah 31:9 “I am a father to Israel”. Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt have I called My son.” Deuteronomy 14:1 “You are the sons of the Lord your God.”

And the significance of this is found in the very next verse, Deuteronomy 14:2. “For you are a people holy to YHVH your God, and YHVH has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth”.

3. ‘Glory’, Exodus 16:10 / Exodus 40:34-35. This glory is called the Shekinah.

You will not find that word in the Scriptures, though it is a Hebrew word that both Jews and Christians have used to describe the presence of God.

It was the visible sign of the presence of the One who, by his very nature is invisible. It was, in fact, the evidence that God was with His people. And it remained with His people so long as they were faithful to Him.

Not only did the Glory lead the people on their wilderness journey, whilst, at the same time, giving them protection against the pursuing Egyptians, but it was also the evidence of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies, when the High priest went in, to intercede for the people, on the Day of Atonement, before the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:2 / Exodus 25:22.

Ezekiel’s vision of the glory. Let me show you something interesting, in this connection, from the Book of Ezekiel, because the keynote of that book is the glory of the Lord.

Incidentally, there are, in Hebrew, about nine different words for glory, all having different shades of meaning; beauty, honour, purity, majesty, adornment, etc., but there is one which is used 155 times in the Old Testament, and whenever you come across such expressions as the glory of the Lord or The glory of YHVH, it is this word, the word Kabod.

This is the only word that Ezekiel uses and it is the word for glory, which emphasizes His holiness and His presence. It is the only word he uses because he is not concerned about the beauty of the land, or the glory of the people themselves; only with the glory of God.

He speaks of God’s glory, 12 times in the first 11 chapters. And then, there is a long gap, and we don’t read about the glory again until we come to Ezekiel 43:22. And do you know why? The reason is that, when you reach Ezekiel 43, The Glory of God has left the people, and the Temple and the City of Jerusalem, not suddenly, but gradually.

Turn to Ezekiel 9:3, and you will see that the glory, which, as we have already seen, rested above the mercy seat, above the golden cherubim, whose wings covered the mercy seat, in the Holy of Holies, has moved to the threshold of the temple. I.e. the entrance.

Turn now to Ezekiel 10:3, and you find that the Cherubim, always the guardians of the Holiness of God, have moved and are standing on the south side of the Temple, and, verse 18 shows that the glory goes forth from the entrance of the Temple and stands over the Cherubim, in readiness for leaving.

In Ezekiel 11:22-23, the Cherubim mount up into the air, with the glory above them and they move out across the valley, to the mountain on the other side, east of the city of Jerusalem, which happens to be the Mount of Olives, higher than the city itself, and giving a marvellous view of the city.

And that meant that God had forsaken both Jerusalem and the temple itself.

Now, this is the point at which that particular vision of Ezekiel closes. He tells the people in captivity in Babylon what he has seen. The significance is easy to see.

He is telling them that, because of their idolatry and unfaithfulness, because both the Temple and their city have been defiled, the glory of God can no longer dwell there. And the Glory has departed.

God has left them. And the protection which His presence had given to them, had been removed, because He had given up their city and their Temple, to the Babylonian armies. Now! When will the glory return?

Look at Ezekiel 43:2-6. See the glory returning to the place it left. See it entering the Temple. And see the glory of the Lord filling the temple. And notice the very dramatic words with which the prophecy of Ezekiel closes, Ezekiel 48:35 “And the name of the city henceforth shall be; ‘YHVH IS THERE.’

4. ‘Covenants’, covenants of promise Ephesians 2:12, entered into with Abraham Genesis 12:1-3 / Genesis 13:14-18 / Genesis 15:4-14, Isaac Genesis 26:2-5 / Genesis 23-25, Jacob Genesis 35:9-12, and Israel Exodus 12:18-26.

Notice the use of the plural, ‘covenants’, not ‘covenant’. The word refers not only to,

1. The covenant made with Abraham, to the effect that of him, God would make a great nation which should be a blessing to the whole of mankind.

2. To Isaac and Jacob also. Exodus 2:24.

3. To Israel, at Sinai. Exodus 19:5

4. To David, concerning kingship. 2 Samuel 7:11-16 As the Scriptures say, no such covenants were ever made with Gentile nations. See Psalm 147:20.

5. ‘Giving of the law’, the Law of Moses was the best that mankind had up to that point. It contains the only reliable source of the origin of all things.

6. ‘Service of God’, all divine services, temple or otherwise, rendered to God. Israel’s worship was the true worship for man up to its replacement. John 4:22-24 / Hebrews 9:1.

The expression, ‘the worship’, means, the religious service, and it refers to the form of worship that the people were to follow. The word, ‘worship’ is the translation of the Greek word ‘latreia’, and it has to do with offering religious service. This is why the Revised Versions have given us ‘worship’ rather than ‘service’, such as you find in the A.V.

It reminds us that the people were not left to themselves to decide how or when they were to worship God, but that God gave them very specific instructions.

He planned the tabernacle and the priesthood, and all the rites and ceremonies that were to be observed. His command to Moses was, repeatedly, ‘See that you do everything according to the pattern I showed you in the mountain’ Exodus 25:40.

This meant, once again, that their worship was unique because it was worship as God commanded.

7. ‘Promises’, those made to Abraham Genesis 12:1-3, Isaac Genesis 26:5, Jacob Genesis 35:11-12, David 2 Samuel 7:12-13, etc., which found their fulfilment in Christ. Galatians 3:16 / Galatians 4:4-6.

You may recall that when we studied the letter to the Hebrews we saw that there were at least seven distinct promises which God made to Abraham, many of which, were later confirmed to his descendants.

1. A great nation.

2. Protected and blessed by God.

3. Possessing the Promised Land.

4. And the promises relating to the Coming of the Messiah.

The very fact that Israel had such a distinguished ancestry made it all the more difficult to understand how these people could turn away from the very things towards which the Fathers had looked in faith. As Hebrews 11 shows, these, and other great ones of Old Testament times had looked forward in anticipation to the blessings which were to come with the Christ.

They had died in faith not having experienced the promises. Yet here were their descendants rejecting those very blessings.

8. And most importantly, Israel’s greatest distinction. The Christ Himself had come from Israel. Romans 1:3. As a man, he was of the seed of David. As to His deity, Paul tells us here, he is overall, God blessed forever.

If you cannot see the word ‘Theos’, God, applied to Christ, all you need to do is to turn to Acts 20:28 / Titus 2:13. In view of all these advantages, Paul’s heart is heavy, pained, that Israel is still unsaved. The depth and intensity of his pain can be gauged from the words he uses in those opening verses, ‘great sorrow, unceasing anguish I could wish myself accursed and cut off from Christ of my brethren.’

There is no mistaking how deeply he felt when he was actually prepared to be eternally lost because that is what his statement means by sacrificing himself, his people could be saved.

We see how deeply he felt. We are reminded of the case of Moses, in his prayer recorded in Exodus 32:32, when, pleading with God for Israel, he asked God to blot his name out of the Book of Life, if Israel could not be forgiven.

Think of it!

All these advantages, these privileges, these distinctions, and yet, Israel is unsaved.

‘Fathers’, most of the Bible fathers were Israelites.

‘From whom…Christ came’, Christ, too, was a Jew or Israelite.

‘The eternal blessed God’, refers to Christ as God. Some translations make the phrase refer to the Father, e.g., ‘Let God be blessed forever.’ (RSV, NAB, and, of course, the NWT of the Jehovah’s Witnesses).

However, there is no justification for such rendering. It is only natural that Paul would say something about the Lord’s Deity here. God, the father is not under consideration in the verse.

“It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 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.” 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. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Romans 9:6-9

Now, in Romans 9:6, Paul points out that this does not mean that the Word of God has failed. And the reason is that not all those in Israel, associated with Israel are truly of Israel. This means that some of those connected with Israel are not true Israelites. And this is a situation that stretched all the time of Abraham.

The descendants of Ishmael, for example, were never regarded as Abraham’s offspring, even though they claimed a relationship with him, just as the Arabs and Palestinians do to this very day.

Do you think that the Jews consider the Arabs who are descended from Ishmael, to be the seed of Abraham? Certainly not. So Paul has made a valid point, which no true Jew would deny.

In Romans 9:7 he takes this s step further. He says that not even those who were born from Abraham are regarded as his children. Quite apart from Ishmael, who Hagar, after the death of Sarah his wife, Abraham married again, Keturah bore him several children, as you may read in Genesis 25, where their names are listed. And, Genesis 25:6 also records that had concubines who bore him sons, who were never regarded as his seed.

The Jews never counted the children of any of these women as the seed of Abraham. So Paul’s argument is plain. It is that mere fleshly descent or fleshly connection with Abraham does not make one an Israelite.

And the reason why he is making this argument is that he is about to announce something that he knows the Jews will find very, very difficult to accept, namely that God has rejected Israel because Israel has rejected Christ.

He knows that they will claim that they and they alone are the people of God and heirs of the promises made to Abraham, and all others are excluded. So he very gently approaches the statement he is about to make and which he knows will offend them, by quoting God’s own words to back up what he has just said.

Romans 9:8. Through Isaac shall your descendants be named. In other words, just as Ishmael did not inherit, although he was born to Abraham, the Jews of Paul’s day might also miss the blessing, unless their claim is based on something more than fleshly descent from Abraham. If they are to inherit, like Isaac they must do so because they share the faith of Isaac. See Galatians 4:28.

In other words, Abraham’s children are divided into two groups. Galatians 4:21-31. The children of the flesh, are those born to Abraham naturally. The children of the promise are those who were born by God’s plans, promises, and intervention.

To prove that one is the seed of Abraham (physically) proves nothing concerning salvation. Sonship belongs to those who are the seed according to promise. Christians are true children of promise.

1. The Israel of God. Galatians 6:16

2. Abraham’s Seed. Galatians 3:29

3. The Circumcision. Philippians 3:3

4. A Jew Inwardly. Romans 2:28-29

5. The Chosen. 1 Peter 2:9

6. Children of Abraham. Galatians 3:7


Fleshly descent means nothing, no matter what heritage we might have. Let us seek to be numbered with the true children of promise.

Romans 9:9 shows how Isaac was a child of promise. The point is that God chose to limit His promise to Isaac. Who could then object if God now chooses to limit His salvation to those who believe in Christ?

Being Abraham’s child was not sufficient. Abraham had other children. If the Jews could see this point, they could also understand how Christians are children of promise.

“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:10-13

In these verses, Paul develops his argument still further. Of course, here we have a passage that is often mistakenly thought to support the Calvinistic doctrine of eternal election.

He says that Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, had two sons, in fact, they were twins. Jacob and Esau. And yet, even before they were born, God, who knows men. And who sees the end from the beginning, spoke about these two men.

He knew how they would turn out, this is His foreknowledge. Even before either child had done anything, God said that the elder would serve the younger, and Esau would serve Jacob.

Notice that there is here a quotation taken from Malachi 1:2-3. But remember! This statement was not made before they were born. It was not made during their lifetime. It is a statement through the prophet Malachi, a thousand years after they were both dead!

Malachi is speaking about God’s judgment on the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, who became the implacable relentless enemies of the Israelites, and who harried them and cut down the stragglers when Israel was weary and tired during the wilderness journey.

God says that he hated, the word means loved less, it is a comparative word, loved the descendants of Esau less than the descendants of Jacob, because of the wickedness of the Edomites. You will recall that Esau is described as a profane, irreligious and immoral person, in the Hebrew letter.

He despised his birthright, the privileges and duties of the firstborn. He rashly sold his blessing. Whilst Jacob, on the other hand, valued the birthright and valued the blessing. True, he bought the one and stole the other, but he did so because they meant something to him.

Do you see how powerfully Paul is arguing here?

The Jews would have argued that Ishmael should have been rejected and excluded, on the grounds that it was Isaac who was Abraham’s only legitimate son. But there could be no such claim with regards to Esau!

After all, Esau and Jacob had the same mother, both were the legitimate sons of Isaac. And, what is more, Esau was the firstborn, and strictly speaking, had all the rights! But God used his sovereign power in allowing the usual legal order of things to be set aside so that Jacob could inherit as the Firstborn.

God could have stepped in and prevented the entire transaction but He didn’t. Esau was rejected because he rejected his responsibilities to God, Jacob was accepted because he demonstrated faith and saw the worth of both the birthright and the blessing. This is why Jacob became the stronger, according to the prophecy made by God to Rebekah.

And this is where we touch upon the real Bible teaching on the subject of election. God chose one of Rebekah’s sons before they were actually born, God elected Jacob, but it was not a random selection. God’s election was based upon his foreknowledge of the kind of man Jacob would turn out to be.

In that quotation from Genesis 25:23, God told Rebekah a little about the basis of his choice of Jacob. God said two nations will be born. Two manners of people are how the A.V. puts it. Two very different kinds of people.

Ishmael was rejected, did he ever demonstrate faith? Did Isaac reveal faith? Certainly, he did! Hebrews 11:20 tells us this. And what about Jacob and Esau? Did God reject Esau and choose Isaac without regard to the sort of men they were? Certainly not! We know the kind of men they were and we know the kind of nations that came from them.

So Paul is stating that Israel cannot expect to be saved merely on the basis of her history, or because she was the chosen people of God. All her advantages will count for nothing if she does not demonstrate the kind of obedient faith which was demonstrated by the Patriarchs.

He has shown that Abraham, in whom they boasted, was not reckoned as righteous,

a. Because he was chosen by God.

b. Because of the ceremony of circumcision.

c. Or because he kept the Law.

He was accounted righteous, because he believed God, and acted on his faith, in obedience to God.

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 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.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Romans 9:14-18

Romans 9:14-29 deals with two questions, that someone might have raised. First, ‘is there injustice on God’s part, when He accepts and rejects people in this way, (i.e. Jacob and Esau)? Paul says, perish the thought! Do not even think about it.

Remember that God has absolute sovereignty. God Himself says, ‘I will have mercy on whoever I choose.’

And it is not a matter of the prize going to the one who wins the race. (The A.V. says, ‘him that runneth’ and he is obviously using the illustration of the foot race.) Your version may say, ‘It depends not on a man’s will, or exertion’, i.e., on his effort, but upon God’s mercy.

It was no unjust selection that God had made. If God selected Isaac and Jacob because they were the best instruments to work out His plans, it would not be out of harmony for God to reject the Jews because of unbelief and accept the Gentiles for their belief.

Romans 9:15 quotes what God said to Moses, ‘I will show grace to whom I will show grace and mercy to whom I will show mercy’. Exodus 33:19. And this brings us back to the truth that it is God who determines the basis on which His grace is offered to men.

Notice that the pronoun ‘I’ is emphasized. God alone has the right to choose regarding the ones on whom He will have mercy. No one can keep God from showing mercy to whom He wills. The Jews said that God’s mercy should be to the Jews only; however, God thought differently. Luke 1:50 / Acts 10:34-35.

Romans 9:16 refers to the origin of mercy. ‘Not of him who wills’, mercy was not bestowed because man originally wished or desired it. God is the original fountain of it.

‘Nor of him who runs’ means it did not result from any strenuous or intense effort on the part of man, but from God’s own decision to bestow it.

Romans 9:17 quotes the case of God’s dealing with Pharaoh. And you need to listen very carefully to what Paul says here because if you are not careful you might get the wrong idea. God said that he had raised up Pharaoh, in order to show His power through the Egyptian ruler. Notice, to show his power.

He did not say that He raised up Pharaoh to destroy him, or to drown him in the Red Sea, but, through His dealings with Pharaoh, to let the nations around about see how powerful was Israel’s God.

Now, just how God’s intention should be accomplished, depended on Pharaoh himself, on the way he responded to God’s demand, present through Moses.

It was within the sphere of Pharaoh’s choice either to submit to the will of the God, whom Moses represented, or to take the course which, in fact, he did take and resist God’s will, and face the consequences.

Either way, either by Pharaoh’s immediate and voluntary submission to God’s demand or by being compelled to let the people go, when the children of Israel marched out of Egypt, the world would know the power of God.

‘The Scripture says’ in Exodus 9:16, it is God speaking, and so, ‘the Scriptures says’ is the same as ‘God says.’

‘For this very purpose…that I may show My power in you’, each time Pharaoh refused to let Israel go, the power of God was more clearly demonstrated in another plague.

All peoples began to hear of Jehovah God and the mighty power He demonstrated in delivering Israel. The time had come for God to show mercy on Israel and Pharaoh could not stop Him.

Verse 18 means, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by demanding something he didn’t want to do. God didn’t directly harden his heart separate from his will but took advantage of his evil disposition to carry out His plans. God shows favour to whom He wills, just as He favoured Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.

He rejects those whom He wills just as He did Ishmael, Esau, and Pharaoh. The means by which He shows mercy or rejects must be learned in other passages.


An old proverb says, ‘The same sun that hardens the clay melts the wax.’

Through means of the Gospel, God hardens the hearts of some and melts the hearts of others. Those who accept the offer and obey its requirements are saved, selected, and favoured. Those who reject it are lost, hardened, rejected. Let’s strive to be of the favoured.

“One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 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?” 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?” Romans 9:19-21

Romans 9:19 introduces another problem that may have arisen in the minds of his readers. Who can resist him? If, as Paul seems to be saying, God’s will is going to be worked out anyway, how can a man be blamed for what he does and why should he be punished?

If the will of God is always going to be worked out anyway, doesn’t this mean that men have no moral responsibility! Now Paul might have replied to this argument in several ways, but, in fact, he doesn’t think that it deserves a reply! You notice in verse 20, that he dismisses it out of hand. He says, ‘even to ask such a question reveals disrespect for God.’

You are questioning the justice and righteousness of God when you ask it. And, no matter how it may look to you, God is always just, right and good.

Abraham understood this when a lesser man might have thought that God was about to act with undue severity in His dealings with Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham says, ‘Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?’ Genesis 18:25

And So Paul anticipates some objections. How could God find fault with man if everything man does is in accord with His overall purpose? Romans 9:2 gives the rebuke to those who ask such questions. Such questions show a lack of respect toward God. It is presumptuous for man to pass judgment on God because of His decisions and actions.

‘Reply against God?’, ‘Or, answers again, or disputes with God?’ (Footnote, KJV) Who has the right to talk back to God? We should never dispute with God when we don’t understand His purposes.

If God chooses to save both Jews and Gentiles upon obedience to the gospel, who has the right to question Him?

‘Will the thing formed…?’ The thing formed is stepping out of place by asking such a question.


All people must choose either to submit to God’s will and be saved or to continue to sin and be lost. Modern man does not like this choice as imposed by God. Nonetheless, God by right of Creator has so established it, and our reaction to it determines our own destiny.

Then Paul uses that well-known illustration of the potter and the clay in Romans 9:21 and following. Quite simply it means that man has no right to question omnipotent, omniscient God.

Notice the expression ‘the same lump’ in Romans 9:21. The commentator Godet offers an interesting thought here, he says that at the forefront of Paul’s mind there is still the fact that the Jews, who were the people of God and who had all the advantages, have rejected Christ, whilst the Gentiles, who were separated from God, have accepted salvation.

The potter has a right to make from the same lump of clay a vessel of honour (beautiful and of noble purpose), and a vessel to dishonour (ugly and of common use).

The fact that God made the creature, declares His right to make it suitable to Himself. The potter (God), not the clay (man), determines the design of His work. God has the right to make one honour and another to dishonour.

The verse does not refer to the manner in which He does it. 2 Timothy 2:20-21. To press the illustration to destroy man’s free will (denominational predestination) is a misuse of the passage.

So Paul is saying Israel must not say to God, ‘You have no right to make ME anything else than a vessel to Honour, and you have no right to make the Gentiles anything else than a common vessel.”

“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? 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—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 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,” 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.’” Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” 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.” Romans 9:22-29

Verses 22-24 are asking a question. If the potter has a right, does not God have a right to destroy sinners as a means to demonstrate His wrath and show His anger?

‘Much longsuffering’, shows He does not make them ‘vessels of wrath’ apart from their own wills. There would be no need for longsuffering if man had no part in it. 2 Peter 3:9.

They make themselves vessels of wrath by opposing God’s will, and they make themselves so against God’s will. 2 Timothy 2:4. God’s patience and longsuffering are extended toward everyone, but there will come a time when it will cease.

‘Prepared for destruction’, means just as God determined beforehand that a certain group or class will be saved eternally (those in Christ), He determined beforehand that a certain group or class will receive everlasting destruction (those who fail to believe and obey Christ).

He will demonstrate His wrath and make His power known upon sinners as in Romans 9:22, but He will give the riches of His glory to those on whom He has had mercy (the obedient) Romans 9:23.

‘Which He prepared beforehand for glory’, and so, again, God so planned or purposed glory for a certain group or class before He made the world.

‘Even us’ that is Christians, the objects of God’s mercy and vessels of honour.

‘Whom He Called’, the call is to all, Revelation 22:17, and it is by the Gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:14. And so, all people have the opportunity to be vessels of mercy. The verses are showing the Jews that God has a right to save Christians and destroy unbelievers.


God makes the choice as to whom He will save. It is not by an arbitrary selection or rejection of each individual, but by giving the plan and letting each individual choose for himself as to whether he will accept and follow it.

Those who accept (obey) His plan, He chooses to save. Those who reject His plan are thereby rejected. Let us be of those who choose to follow God’s plan.

If God decides to show His grace by extending salvation to the Gentiles, no one has the right to question Him. In fact, God has done what He said He would do, when through the prophet Hosea, He said, ‘Those who were not my people I will call my people. Hosea 2:23

This can only mean that there would be a time when Gentiles become the people of God. And, as for Israel, who thinks so highly of herself.

And so, Paul is showing the Jews by their own prophets that the Gentiles would be called the people of God. He quotes Hosea 2:23, though not quite to the letter, a passage relating directly, not to the Gentiles, but to the kingdom of the ten tribes.

However, since they had sunk to the level of the Gentiles, who were ‘not God’s people,’ and in that sense ‘not beloved,’ the apostle legitimately applies it to the Gentiles. His point is that the prophet prophesied that those who were not God’s people would someday be His people.

He now quotes Hosea 1:10 which teaches the same as the preceding verse.

‘In the place…There’, this expression seems to be designed to give greater emphasis to the gracious change, from divine exclusion to divine admission to the privileges of the people of God. Again, the point is that there would be a place (as well as a time) where those who were not His people would be His people.

In this section, Paul is showing God’s right to choose the believers and to reject fleshly Israel. This is shown by many illustrations: Isaac, Jacob, Pharaoh, the potter, by Hosea the prophet, and now by Isaiah the prophet.

Paul quotes from Isaiah 10:22-23 and also from the latter part of Isaiah 28:21-22. This should remind the Jews that even in the Old Testament age, not all of Israel was saved. They shouldn’t, therefore, complain that the greater part of Israel was not being rejected under the gospel system.

‘For He will finish the work’, ‘For the Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short.’ (ASV) ‘For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.’ (NIV), the Lord had spoken and it would be done. He will execute His work speedily. He cut short (consumed) many of them because of their wickedness. 2 Kings 10:32.

And, look at Romans 9:29, another quotation from Isaiah concerning Israel.

‘As Isaiah said before’, means as Isaiah foretold. A farmer saves ‘seed,’ a small portion of the harvest to continue the next crop. Here it refers to the few righteous individuals by which God, through His mercy, allowed the nation of Israel to continue. This is the same lesson as taught in Romans 9:27.

The Jews should not think it so strange that God was now saving only a few of fleshly Israel. There were only a few saved in Isaiah’s time and without the mercy of God, all would have been destroyed. This very clearly means that, but for the remnant, the few who remained faithful, the rejection of Israel would have been utter and complete.

What had gone wrong with Israel?

“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. 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.” Romans 9:30-33

Romans 9:30 to the end of the chapter explains why, when Paul was writing this letter, the majority of Israel was still unsaved. There could be no questioning Israel’s zeal, Paul admits that they are very zealous, he says this in Romans 10:2. They pursued righteousness. They tried to establish themselves as righteous. But they went about it the wrong way.

‘What shall we say then?’, in other words, what shall we conclude from all this? ‘Even the righteousness of faith’, the ‘righteousness of faith’ is the righteousness revealed and obtained through the Gospel. Romans 1:16-17. While the Gentiles did not seek righteousness according to the law, they became righteous by their obedience to the Gospel. Romans 6:17-18.

They failed to keep the law and so, instead of being righteous, were sinners. They sought justification by the law, but because of their own weaknesses, it was impossible. To be righteous ‘by law,’ one must never violate law in any way. This, no one has ever done, except Christ.

‘Of the law’, this is not in some ancient manuscripts. The Jews were trying to attain righteousness by the works, and instead of having faith in Christ when He came, rejected Him. Christ, therefore, became a stumbling block to them, just as the Scriptures had said He would. 1 Corinthians 1:23 / 1 Peter 2:6-8. Because of their undue and misguided reliance on works, they rejected Christ.

He quotes from Isaiah 28:16 which refers to the Messiah.

‘Not put to shame’, ‘Not be ashamed’, Romans 9:33 KJV, ‘Not make haste’, Isaiah 2:16 KJV, ‘Not be confounded’, 1 Peter 2:6 KJV.

He will never have fear, shame, or disappointment for having believed or trusted in Him. One who puts his trust in a man most certainly will be ashamed and disappointed.

Their entire activity was dedicated and aimed at establishing their own righteousness. They wanted to become right in their own eyes, to their own satisfaction and according to their own standard. They tried to become righteous according to the law and, because they never succeeded in keeping the Law, they failed.

Unlike the Gentiles, who never had the special revelation that the Jews had, but who accepted salvation by faith in the grace, the unmerited favour of God.

The Gentiles did not try to earn righteousness, the Jews did try and failed, because they did not seek it through Faith, but through works. Romans 9:32.


We can also have an undue and misguided reliance on works. We could remove our hearts from the Lord, Matthew 15:8, all the while going through the motions of worship. We could pursue our own interest, Ezekiel 33:31 / Matthew 6:33, all the while thinking we are doing well since we are still attending services.

A brief outline of chapters 9-11

The vindication of God’s choices

1. God’s right to choose as shown by many illustrations:

Isaac, Jacob, Pharaoh, the potter, by Hosea the prophet (those, not His people would be called His people), and by Isaiah the prophet (not all of the Israelites were saved even in the Old Testament age), Romans 9:1-10.

2. The next section shows why they were rejected, Romans 9:11-21.

a. They were seeking it by the works of the law and stumbled, Romans 9:30-33.

b. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness, Romans 10:1-4.

c. He shows what true righteousness is, Romans 10:5-15.

d. Israel had heard and should have known, Romans 10:16-20.

e. Their rejection was because of their own rebellion, Romans 10:21.

3. God had not cast away His people, Romans 11:1-31.

a. Paul was an Israelite, Romans 11:1.

b. Elijah was wrong when he thought none were faithful in Israel, Romans 11:2-5.

c. They were temporarily hardened to open the way for the Gentiles, Romans 11:6-16.

d. God could now graft them in if they did not continue to abide in unbelief, Romans 11:7-31.

4. All of this worked out in accordance with God’s plan, so He might have mercy on all and all glory belongs to Him, Romans 11:32-36.

Go To Romans 10