Enjoy these notes and a video for Romans 9!
So Romans 9 begins a 3-chapter section within the book of Romans, but it’s not wholly detached from the rest of epistle as if Paul wanted to write about entirely different issues.
And actually Romans 9 is an expansion of some of his thoughts earlier in Romans such as chapter 2:28-29 through 3:1-4 which reads, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”
Adam Clarke notes, Paul “had slightly touched on this subject at the beginning of the third chapter; but it would have broken in too much on the thread of his discourse to have pursued the argument there, for which reason he appears to have reserved it to this place.”
Paul elaborates on those points here in chapter 9, and answers objections that a jew a that time, and today would have. Was the faith of God without effect? Did the promises of God fail? Paul answers all this in his long point in Romans 9-11.
Henry Alford: The Gospel being now established, in its fulness and freeness, as the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, a question naturally arises, not unaccompanied with painful difficulty, respecting the exclusion of that people, as a people, to whom God’s ancient promises were made. With this national rejection of Israel the Apostle now deals: first ( Rom 9:1-5 ) expressing his deep sympathy with his own people : then ( Rom 9:6-29 ) justifying Good, Who has not ( Rom 9:6-13 ) broken His promise, but from the first chose a portion only of Abraham’s seed, and that ( Rom 9:14-29 ) by His undoubted elective right, not to be murmured at nor disputed by us His creatures: according to which election a remnant shall now also be saved . Then, as to the rejection of so large a portion of Israel, their own self-righteousness ( Rom 9:30-33 ) has been the cause of it, and ( Rom 10:1-12 ) their ignorance of God’s righteousness, notwithstanding that ( Rom 9:13-21 ) their Scriptures plainly declared to them the nature of the Gospel, and its results with regard to themselves and the Gentiles, with which declarations Paul’s preaching was in perfect accordance. Has God then cast off his people ( Rom 11:1-10 )? No for a remnant shall be saved according to the election of grace, but the rest hardened, not however for the purpose of their destruction, but ( Rom 11:11-24 ) of mercy to the Gentiles: which purpose of mercy being fulfilled, Israel shall be brought in again to its proper place of blessing ( Rom 11:25-32).
Let’s jump into it.
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
So Paul expresses deep sympathy and sorrow for his fellow ethnic Jews that have largely rejected the Gospel message and rejected Jesus. The fact that he would be accursed to save them (not that it works that way but his point is clear), shows they are NOT saved.
Paul just finished 8 chapters on how Jews and Gentiles are all under sin and faith in Christ is the only way to salvation, so Jews by being ethnically Jewish are no “closer” to salvation that Scottish or Ukrainian or whatever. These are the terms that God has set, and we see that elaborated on more in this chapter.
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
This follows Romans 3:1-2 where Paul asks and answers the question on what advantage a Jew might have. They were given these benefits, blessings, and promises in Old Testament times.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
So did God break His promises that He would save Israel? Romans 4 talks about this as well, and verse 16 says, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” And in Galatians we’re told that “the seed” is singular referring to Christ. In Christ shall ALL the nations of the world be blessed.
But also, as this verse here, Romans 9:6 mentions, God promised to save Israel many times in the OT such as in Isaiah 45:17 which reads, “But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” But now Paul will explain that God never meant that every single person descended from Abraham is considered Israel.
The problem, as usual, is not with God’s promise but that the Jews misunderstood it. Paul is correcting their misunderstanding: There is no salvation on an ethnic basis. Never was.
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
The Jews placed huge emphasis and had great pride to call Abraham their father, but here Paul is saying that the promise wasn’t made to every ethnic descendent of Abraham. The promise was through Isaac, not Ishmael. After Abraham’s wife Sarah died, he remarried and had 6 more sons with Keturah (as well as countless children with concubines, Gen 25:6). None of those were chosen to carry the line all the way to Jesus who is THE seed who has blessed all the nations. Listen, the whole bible is about Jesus Christ, it all points to Him.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
Not about who your parents were, but the children of promise are regarded as the seed. Dr. Leighton Flowers writes, “Clearly, God is counting individuals as His children based upon their faith in His promise, just as He has done throughout all of human history.”
Galatians 3:29 says, “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” And Galatians 4:28 says, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” when writing to Gentile churches.
This also goes along with Romans 2:28-29 and 4:16-17. Abraham, because of his faith, is the father of MANY nations (εθνος in the Greek).
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
So Calvinists love to take this verse 11 here out of context and completely twist its meaning to imagining that God simply chooses people before they are born to either go to heaven or hell when they die. Absolutely absurd. Is that at all what this chapter is talking about, after Paul just spent 8 chapters talking about how we can be saved? Clearly not.
What is this election in this verse? It’s not about election to salvation, it’s election—or selection—to carry the line of promise through to the Messiah.
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Calvinists love verse 13 here as well to imagine that God just hates people before they’re born for no reason at all. Absurd. This isn’t about the individuals but their respective nations, lineage, and posterity.
First, “The elder shall serve the younger”, is about Edom (Esau’s descendants) serving Israel (Jacob’s descendants). Genesis 33 talks about Jacob calling Esau his lord and bowing to him.
Then we go from the first book of the Old Testament in Romans 9:12 here to the last book of the Old Testament in Malachi where Romans 9:13 is quoted from. Read the first 4 verses in Malachi and you’ll see that the nations are in view, not the individuals who are long since dead at this point.
Also, the expression “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” means that one is preferred over the other, or to “love less” as Strong’s Concordance explains. We see this in Luke 14:26, and Genesis 29:30-32.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Robert Picirilli says the key to this chapter is this verse. He writes, “Is there unrighteousness with God (in His treatment of Israel, which includes the present rejection of Israel)? Paul’s purpose for the three chapters is to answer this question with a resounding ‘No.’”
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
God sets the terms, not us. James 4:6 & 1 Peter 5:5 both say that God resist the proud but gives grace to the humble. How do you receive God’s mercy? Not be being a literal child of Abraham, but by humbling yourself.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
We can’t work or desire to make God indebted to us. God shows mercy on His terms.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Sometimes in reading about Pharaoh the bible tells us that God hardened his heart, and sometimes Pharaoh hardened his own heart, which is a temporary condition so show God’s power in this unsaved ruler.
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
This is a similar objection to the one in Romans 3:7. Look at his answer in verse 20.
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Paul here rejects entirely the objection just like he did in Romans 3:7-8! “Repliest against God” means to argue against God, and Paul shuts down this objection. Does God have the right to harden wicked people to accomplish His will? Of course.
“God has the power to be a domineering tyrant, but this is not how He acts. When God dealt with Pharaoh, there were no steamroller tactics. The book of Exodus says in at least ten places that Pharoah hardened his own heart.” – Brad Price
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
Now Paul takes an allegory from Jeremiah 18 to describe the disobedient lump of Israel and the obedient remnant of Israel.
Listen to what it says in Jeremiah 18:8-10, “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”
In the next few verses in Jeremiah 18 God pleads with the people to return to Him and gives His conditions.
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Who are the vessels of wrath? Unbelieving Jews. Who are vessels of mercy? Believing Jews and Gentiles in one family in the church.
Verse 24 here concludes the long question that began in verse 22, that God endured unbelieving Israel and now will show His glory on the vessels of mercy. God has the right to reject ethnic Israel because they largely rejected Him, but this isn’t a final rejection as we see in chapter 11, nor does it mean that Jews are unable to be saved; just look at the author of this epistle.
25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
Now Paul continues this point about how believing Jews and believing Gentiles are God’s people (see Romans 10:12). He quotes from Hosea 2:23 and then Hosea 1:10 to show the clear promise of the grafting in of Gentiles to be the sons of God.
John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
Paul quotes from Isaiah 10:22-23, which fits perfectly with his larger point that merely being a Jew was insufficient grounds for salvation. Again, God’s terms are Grace through Faith, not Race.
29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
This is quoted from Isaiah 1:9. If God had let the nation of Israel go its way they would have been utterly destroyed, but God kept a remnant safe to fulfill His purposes.
30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
Henry Alford summarizes these verses saying, “The Apostle takes up again the fact of Israel’s failure, and shews how their own pursuit of righteousness never attained to righteousness, being hindered by their self-righteousness and rejection of Christ.” He says these verses are a comment on Romans 9:16, “that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth : the same similitude of running being here resumed, and it being shewn that, so far from man’s running having decided the matter, the Jews who pressed forward to the goal attained not, whereas the Gentiles, who never ran, have attained.”
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
The stumblingstone is Jesus, and Paul quotes these verses from Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16. You can also look at 1 Peter 2:6 and Psalm 118:22.
The Jews stumbled at Jesus Christ; they had all the advantages of the Law, the prophets, the fathers, yet they rejected the Messiah when He came.
A relevant passage to this whole section of Romans is Ezekiel 3:4-7 and I’ll close with that: “And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.”