Daily Devotion Text

October 25, 2022

Romans 9 Commentary

By gracepoint In Devotion Text, Romans with Comments Off on Romans 9 Commentary


Romans 9 Commentary

vv.1-3  “Paul suffers from great anguish because his Jewish kinsmen are unsaved (see also 10:1). Indeed, if it were possible, Paul might almost choose to be accursed (to suffer God’s punishment in hell) so that his fellow Jews would be saved (cf. Moses in Ex. 32:30–32). But he knows this would achieve nothing, for none but Christ could be any person’s substitute to bear God’s wrath.” [1]

vv.4-5  “Paul lists the privileges of his kinsfolk. He does so, at one level, to heighten the immediate rhetorical force, the plea for sympathy: these are the people to whom so much has been given. At another level, the list functions as a point of high irony: most of these privileges are what he has argued in the preceding chapters now belong to those (from whatever race) who are ‘in the Messiah.’ […] The force of the list is thus to say: the privileges that now belong to all those in Christ – ‘not least,’ Paul might add, ‘those of you in Rome’ (see 1:7 15) are actually the privileges God promised to Israel according to the flesh. You Christians have come, as he says explicitly in 11:17 and 15:27, to share in the spiritual blessing of Israel.”

“The point, then, is that God, having called ethnic Israel to be the light of the world, has now shone that light lavishly on the wider world, while Israel seems to have chosen to remain in darkness. Israel, called to be God’s messenger to the world (3:1-2), has seen the message successfully delivered while itself failing to give heed to it. The irony and tragedy of this situation is the reason both for Paul’s anguish and for this poignant way of expressing it.” [2]

vv.6-29  “This passage is the first part of the continuous narrative that runs through to 10:21. It is the story of Israel told in such a way as to bring out some often-overlooked features: the story, both in promise and fulfillment, was always a story of grace, but was simultaneously one of tragic failure, of Israel being narrowed down further and further to a final ‘remnant.’ The point of this aspect of the narrative, in Paul’s telling of it, is that this, too, was not outside the purpose of God, but was what had been promised all along.” [3]

v.6  “How can the people of Israel not be Israel? The first Israel refers to the nation – an ethnic category. The second Israel refers to individuals who genuinely believe in God and come to him through faith in Christ – a spiritual category. Some who were Israel by the first definition were not by the second. Others, though not Israel in an ethnic sense, had become Israel in a spiritual sense (v.8; Gal 3:29).” [4]

vv.8-9 “That Paul should first turn to Abraham to substantiate this point is not surprising. Abraham was, after all, the ancestor of the Jewish people as a whole (see Gen. 12:1 – 3; Rom. 4:1). Yet Jews belong to Abraham in different ways, Paul affirms. All who can claim him as their physical ancestor are his ‘children,’ but only those who have him as their spiritual father as well are his ‘offspring.’”[5]

vv.12-14  “Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau? In Malachi 1:2,3, the statement ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ refers to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers. God chose Jacob to continue the family line of the faithful because he knew his heart was for God. But he did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving him. Keep in mind the kind of God we worship: he is sovereign; he is not arbitrary; in all things he works for our good; he is trustworthy; he will save all who believe in him.  When we understand these qualities of God, we know that his choices are good even if we don’t understand all his reasons.” [6]

vv.14-18  “The question of 9:14, as we saw, is parallel to that of 3:5: is God unjust to inflict wrath? There Paul answered abruptly that this could not be so, since God is the world’s judge, and as such is bound to punish evil. Here as there, Paul is not talking about people who are, so to speak, morally neutral; he is talking about sinful human beings. The contexts of the quotations from Exod 33:19 and 9:16, in vv.15 and 17, make this clear. In the first case, God is speaking to Moses about those who sinned by making the golden calf. In the second, God is speaking through Moses to Pharaoh, explaining why, despite his arrogance in opposing God’s plan to set Israel free, God has not struck him dead on the spot, but has allowed him to go on, hardening his heart so that the long-term effect would be the spreading of the news of God’s power and reputation.

“In both cases, then, the question is not: granted that human beings are a blank slate, what is God writing on that slate? Instead, it is this: Granted that Israel has followed Adam into sin (5:20 and 7:7-25 are the second relevant passages), what will God do with it? The answer Paul gives, continuing his story of Israel from Abraham to the present day, is that God has allowed Israel, like Pharaoh, to stand – that is, he has withheld instant judgment, in order that mercy may spread into the world. This is where the third earlier passage comes into play: God’s kindness is meant to lead to repentance (2:4-6), though those who do not avail themselves of the chance will become hardened.” [7]

v.18 “Paul concludes the Pharaoh episode with this observation: ‘Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden’ (v. 18). He does not so much as bother to indicate that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, an evidence of unbelief and rebellion, because he is emphasizing the freedom of God’s action in all cases. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart can profitably be related to the principle laid down in Romans 1, that God’s method of dealing with those who reject the revelation of himself in nature and history (and in Pharaoh’s case also in miracles) is to abandon them to still greater excess of sin and its consequences.” [8]

vv.19-21  “The very question Paul now poses is exactly the one that we are tempted to raise at this point also: how can God blame people for rejecting him if he himself, by choosing some and ‘passing over’ others, in some sense causes that very rejection? Paul’s response reveals that he himself has no logically satisfactory answer to this question. He has earlier in the letter made it plain that people are fully responsible for their rejection of the truth of God (1:20-2:11), and he will make the point again with respect to Israel (9:30-10:21). But Paul does not mention this as way of avoiding the issue that he now raises. He thereby implies that God’s sovereignty in rejection and man’s responsibility for that rejection are to be maintained as two complementary truths, truths that must not be used to detract from one another. Here Paul simply contests anyone’s right to stand in judgment over the ways of God. He is the potter, who has full right over the vessels that he creates” [9]

vv.22-23 “Within the theological position Paul has sketched out in 2:1-1 […] it makes good sense to see God as not inflicting wrath, even though it has been richly deserved, but rather creating a breathing space in which there is time to appeal to Israel, and for mercy to spread to more people (see 2 Chr 36:15-16, in the context of Rom 9:11-21 as a whole).” [10]

“For the sake of longer-term fulfillment of his wider purposes (we must never forget that this argument continues to 10:12-13 and beyond), God has patiently put up with the Pharaohs of this world, who now alas include much of his own people Israel, as the prophets themselves said over and over again. They are ‘vessels of wrath,’ not in the sense of being God’s agents to bring wrath on others […] but in the sense that they are the appropriate recipients of wrath.”

“Had God simply condemned Israel at once, following its decisive rejection of Jesus as Messiah, there would have been no space either for Jews to repent […] or for Gentiles to be brought in. Instead, God’s patience has served the larger good. God will in the end still display the appropriate wrath and power, but, more important, there will be also displayed ‘the riches of his glory,’ the glory, in this case, which God will give to, or share with, the ‘vessels of glory.’” [11]

vv.22-23 “God created a world in which both his wrath and his mercy would be displayed. Indeed, his mercy shines against the backdrop of his just wrath, showing thereby that the salvation of any person is due to the marvelous grace and love of God. If this is difficult to understand, it is because people mistakenly think God owes them salvation!” [12]

vv.25-26  “Paul quotes Hos. 2:23 and 1:10 to illustrate the stunning grace of God—that those who are not my people . . . will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ In calling the Gentiles to salvation, God calls a sinful people to himself, just as in saving Israel he showed mercy to the undeserving. No one can presume on God’s grace. In calling anyone to salvation, he shows undeserved mercy to those who were not his people.” [13]

vv.24-29 “We now hear again the theme that dominated 9:6–13: God’s call is the sole basis for inclusion in the true people of God. ‘What counts is grace, not race,’ as N. T. Wright puts it. 

“Paul now takes a step further by taking this principle to its logical conclusion. Since God’s grace is what matters, then he is free to call Gentiles into his kingdom as well as Jews. […]

“Under the old covenant, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2, the Gentiles were ‘excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world’ (Eph. 2:12). While God graciously extended his covenant grace to some Gentiles (e.g., Rahab, Ruth; see also the book of Jonah), his people were largely identified with, or drawn from, Israel. Under the new covenant, however, all that has changed. God shows no distinction, giving his grace to both Jew and Gentile alike. This, Paul insists, was predicted in the Old Testament itself […]

“The remnant conception emerged in the prophets as a message of both judgment and hope—judgment, because the continuing sinfulness of Israel brought God’s judgment on the people as a whole, resulting in the salvation of only some of the people; hope, because despite Israel’s sinfulness, God maintained his commitment to his covenant and pledged to save at least some of the people.”[14] 

vv.30-33  “Fundamentally, the Jewish idea was that a man, by strict obedience to the law, could pile up a credit balance. The result would be that God was in his debt and owed him salvation. But it was obviously a losing battle, because man’s imperfection could never satisfy God’s perfection; nothing that man could do could even begin to repay what God has done for him.

“That is precisely what Paul found. As he said, the Jew spent his life searching for a law, obedience to which would put him right with God, and he never found it because there was no such law to be found. The Gentile had never engaged upon this search; but when he suddenly was confronted with the incredible love of God in Jesus Christ, he simply cast himself upon that love in total trust. It was as if the Gentile saw the Cross and said, ‘If God loves me like that I can trust him with my life and with my soul.’

“The Jew sought to put God in his debt; the Gentile was content to be in God’s debt. The Jew believed he could win salvation by doing things for God; the Gentile was lost in amazement at what God had done for him. The Jew sought to find the way to God by works; the Gentile came by the way of trust.” [15] 

v.32 “Why did Israel fail to achieve right standing with God through the law? They did not pursue obedience to the law in humble trust, but tried to make it a means of establishing their own righteousness. Such a use of the law led them to stumble over the stone (which was Christ confronting them), for those attempting to establish their own righteousness see no need to believe in Christ.” [16]

v.33 “The ‘stumbling stone’ was Jesus.  The Jews did not believe in him, because he didn’t meet their expectations for the Messiah.  Some people still stumble over Christ because salvation by faith doesn’t make sense to them.” [17]

vv. 32-33 “[Paul] draws the picture of a walker so intent on pursuing a certain goal that she stumbles and falls over a rock lying right in her path. So Israel, myopically concentrating on the law and its demands, missed Christ, ‘the stone’ that God placed in her path. This imagery comes from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, which Paul quotes in Romans 9:33.” [18]

[1]  English Standard Version Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2172.

[2]  N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 629.

[3] N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 634.

[4] Quest Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1994) 1561.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, NIV Application Commentary Pradis CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

[6] Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2044.

[7] N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 638.

[8] Everett F. Harrison, “God’s Freedom to Act in His Own Sovereign Right (9:14-29),” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976).

[9] Douglass J. Moo, “Romans”, New Bible Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004) 1144

[10] N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 641.

[11] N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 642.

[12] English Standard Version Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2173.

[13] English Standard Version Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2174.

[14] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, NIV Application Commentary Pradis CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

[15] William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Daily Study Bible Series CD (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1975).

[16] English Standard Version Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2174.

[17] Life Application Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) p.2045

[18] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, NIV Application Commentary Pradis CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

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