Romans Nine

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Romans 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

Romans 9:2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Romans 9:4 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;

Romans 9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

not all Israel. In this section, Paul is clearly speaking about his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3), not about the Gentile church. Nevertheless, God's election of Israel refers ultimately only to those Israelites who become true children of God by faith. In the coming kingdom, the nation of Israel will be the leading nation of the world (Zechariah 14:16), with the twelve apostles judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:29, 30), but the Israelites who participate in the kingdom will only be those who have acknowledged the returning Christ as their Messiah and Redeemer (Zechariah 12:10-11). In the meantime, Israelites who accept Christ in this age are also part of true Israel, while simultaneously being part of the Christian church, in practice being no different from Gentile Christians (Colossians 3:11).

Romans 9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

In Isaac. Of all the biological children of Abraham (Genesis17:18-19; 25:1-2), only Isaac was in the line of promise. In fact, the promised seed in its ultimate fulfillment was none other than Christ Himself (Galatians 3:16).

Romans 9:8 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.

children of the promise. Again this has a dual application. Only those Israelites who are saved by faith in Christ participate in God's ultimate promises to the nation of Israel. Likewise all who come to Christ by faith, whether Jew or Gentile, are spiritual children of Abraham, saved through the promised seed.

Romans 9:9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

Romans 9:10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

Romans 9:11 (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;)

purpose of God. God is Creator of all, and needs no human justification for His actions. It is His prerogative to choose whomever He will. We can be confident that His “purpose” is good and holy, whether or not we understand it now; it is our responsibility simply to trust and thank Him.

not of works. Before Esau and Jacob were born, they had no record of works, so God could not have chosen one of them on that basis. But neither had either one yet exhibited either faith or rebellion, so God's election of Jacob rather than Esau was not because of either works or faith, “but of Him that calleth.” In due time, of course, Jacob did manifest saving faith and demonstrate its validity by his works, but both had been foreordained by God in ways inscrutable to man.

Romans 9:12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

serve the younger. This revelation expressing God's purpose had been given to Rebekah while the twins were struggling in her womb (Genesis 25:22-23), and she undoubtedly transmitted this word to Isaac, but the latter nevertheless continued to favor Esau over Jacob until God overruled him in traumatic fashion (see notes on Genesis 25-27). It is noteworthy that, in the line of the promised seed, God often chose a younger son, over-riding the natural human tendency to choose the elder (e.g., Seth over Cain, Shem over Japheth, Isaac over Ishmael, Judah over Reuben, Pharez over Er, David over Eliab). Of all in the line of promise whose brothers' names are given, only Abraham and Jesus Himself were firstborn sons.

Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

it is written. See Malachi 1:2-3. Undoubtedly, “hated” is used here only in a relative sense. Note a similar usage by Jesus (Luke 14:26).

Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Romans 9:15 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.

saith to Moses. This was said to Moses in response to Moses' request to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:18-19). Since there are none who merit salvation, there are none who are fit (or who can make themselves fit) to be in God's immediate presence. Therefore, it is entirely by God's mercy that any at all are saved, and He surely has the divine right by creation to show mercy on whomever He will (Romans 9:16).

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

Romans 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

scripture saith unto Pharaoh. Note here that Paul equates the word spoken by God (Exodus 9:16) with “Scripture.” The fact that this pronouncement of God was written down by Moses (the Greek word for “Scripture” was graphe, meaning a “written document”) gave the writing the authority of God Himself. Note Paul's summary in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

hardeneth. It was said several times that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3, 13; 9:12; 10:20; 11:10; 14:4). But also it was noted that Pharaoh often hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:4, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34). In some mysterious way, our human decisions (for which we bear full responsibility) have also been God's decisions, and vice versa. This is beyond our finite comprehension and we should not try to rationalize it by some human device of reasoning. What God does it right, by definition (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 33:4) and His ways are “past finding out” (Romans 11:33; Psalm 139:6). We must simply trust Him in whatever He does, knowing that He is accomplishing His own eternal purposes thereby (Romans 9:22-23).

Romans 9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Romans 9:20 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?

Why. We have no right to ask God: “Why?” Remember that He answered Job's pleas for understanding merely by reminding Job of the fact of creation (Job 38-41). As our great Potter, He has the right to make His pottery vessels both for honor and dishonor (Romans 9:21). We who have been redeemed by His mercy should be grateful that He did choose us even before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 1:9), confident that He—by whatever means He chooses—is preparing His “vessels of mercy” to receive the full manifestation of His glory in the ages to come (Romans 9:23; Ephesians 2:10). The fact that our finite minds cannot comprehend the simultaneous operation of divine election and human responsibility is irrelevant. Both Scripture and human experience demonstrate both to be true. We must both rest in that fact, and act in light of it.

Romans 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Romans 9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

Romans 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

Romans 9:24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Romans 9:25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

saith also in Osee. See Hosea 1:9. Although Hosea was speaking of the remnant of Israel, Paul (writing under the Spirit's inspiration) applies the same principle to God's calling of a remnant of the Gentiles as well.

Romans 9:26 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.

said unto them. Still quoting Hosea (Hosea 2:23), Paul again applies the principle to God's calling of a remnant from the Gentiles, who had been set aside as a whole after the rebellion at Babel. Hosea had applied it to the remnant of Israel, who as a nation had been set aside, first in the Assyro/Babylonian captivity and then more rigorously in her worldwide dispersion when she rejected their Messiah. God is now “[visiting] the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14).

Romans 9:27 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:

Esaias also crieth. Isaiah 10:22. God had promised Abraham that his physical descendants would be very numerous (Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 22:17), a prophetic promise that has been remarkably fulfilled. But only a small remnant among these are actually saved and will inherit His promises.

Romans 9:28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

the work. “Work” here is the Greek logos, usually rendered “word,” and never translated elsewhere as “work.” Evidently Paul's intent here is to stress that God's word concerning both Jew and Gentile will be accomplished quickly. The whole history of the world is brief in light of eternity to come.

Romans 9:29 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.

Esaias said before. Quoting Isaiah 1:9. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorra was a very real event in history, even though it was so complete that modern archaeologists have great difficulty in identifying its location, and liberal critics doubt that it ever happened.

Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

Romans 9:31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

Romans 9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Romans 9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

As it is written. See Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14; 28:16. That “stone” which caused Israel to stumble, the “rock” which offended their self-righteousness, was actually a “Him”—none other than their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Israel's rejection of Him resulted in God setting Israel aside and turning to the Gentiles. This truth is also expounded by Christ (Matthew 21:42) and Peter (1 Peter 2:8).