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ROMANS 9:1-9:33
Last updated 12/29/00

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 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; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 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. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 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. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 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? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 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: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 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. 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: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 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. What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.


Introduction

Chapters 9-11 give a fuller understanding of exactly what the Gospel message is. Most sermons on this subject, when using the book of Romans as a "guide," typically stop at chapter 8, and do not include Paul's important inclusion of the role of Israel found in this section of his letter. The "whole Gospel" message is not complete without this understanding of Israel's role and that of the believer toward Israel.

These three chapters must be taken as a single section, as chapter 9 can be misinterpreted if taken apart from 10 and 11. In this section, gentiles who have come to believe in Yeshua, along with Jews who do not yet believe in Yeshua, are Paul's main focus.

Paul is aware of emerging anti-Judaism in the Roman congregation and tendency of some gentiles to downplay or forget their "Jewish roots." He also knows that the anti-Jewish Roman society that surrounds this congregation would feed this prejudice. (We address this idea in our study notes on Revelation chaper 2, where we also analyze much of the book of Ephesians.)

Chapter 9 of Romans has much to do with God’s role amidst Israel’s apostasy. Paul has just concluded (in chapter 8) a section on the hope of the believer. He explains, at this point in the letter, that God has not been unfaithful to Israel. (As some might come to believe due to most of Israel not trusting in Yeshua). If God was not faithful to Israel, and if His love has ended for her (e.g., Deut 7:7; Jer. 31:3), what real hope does the (gentile) believer have?

Paul also returns to the additional concerns of Jewish election and Torah that he mentioned in Romans 1:16-17, and left off after Romans 3:2.


Verses 1-5

Paul calls unbelieving Jews his "brethren" as he did not see faith in Yeshua as a break with Israel and his fellow Jews of the Diaspora. Paul had not left the Jewish faith (i.e., Romans 3:31). Jews were the historical community of God whether they believed in Yeshua or not. Coming to faith in Yeshua would make a gentile a brother to all Jews. Paul will illustrate this in chapter 11.

Gentile salvation has come at great expense to Israel. Their salvation flows out and back to Israel to bring her to her promised salvation. (See Paul's view of salvation history in the Introduction.)

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

Paul adds the utmost emphasis to what he is about to say. As we will see, he is continuing a thought from 8:28, which has much to do with Israel specifically

3-5  For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 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; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Paul still considers the Jews who do not yet accept Yeshua as Messiah to be his brethren, and also the chosen people of God (regardless of their continued unbelief). He goes on to list several aspects of their advantage (re: Romans 2:17-20 and 3:1-9). The Torah ("law") is mentioned in a positive light as a gift to Israel. Paul also reiterates that Yeshua the Messiah is a Jew, promised to the Jews.

Paul's comments are rooted in 1st Samuel, which make clear that Israel will always remain God's chosen people:

1st Samuel 12:20-23 -And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:

Paul's words about himself, "being accursed," may be compare to those of Moses', when the latter prayed for Israel after they had grievously sinned against God:

Exodus 32:31-32 - And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

Verses 6-18

In this section, a distinction is made between the faithful remnant of Israel, and those whose hearts are hardened. Yet, according to Paul both "groups" are still considered the chosen people of God.

The references to "hardened" (i.e., objects of God's wrath), do not deal with an individual's ultimate salvation, but with their role in God's merciful plan. A "vessel of wrath" can become a "vessel of mercy," as this is God’s desire. God shows both His wrath and saving power using such people, as this is necessary to accomplish His ultimate purpose.

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

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

Compare this to Romans 3:3, where Paul reminds his readers that the word of God is true even if man fails to respond properly. Paul now reiterates that there is a "righteous Israel" within the entirety of Israel, just as their always has been (see v.27-29 below).

The Mishna also speaks of "all Israel" having a place in the world to come, yet then lists Israelites who will have no such place:

Soncino Mishna, Sanhedrin 90a - All Israel have a portion in the world to come, for it is written, thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that i may be glorified.’ But the following have no portion therein: He who maintains that resurrection is not a biblical doctrine, the torah was not divinely revealed, and an epikoros. R. Akiba added: one who reads uncanonical books. also one who whispers [a charm] over a wound and says, I will bring none of these diseases upon thee which I brought upon the egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.’ Abba Saul says: Also one who pronounces the divine name as it is spelt. Three kings and four commoners have no portion in the world to come: The three kings are jeroboam, ahab, and manasseh. R. Judah said: manasseh hath a portion therein, for it is written, "And he prayed unto him, and was intreated of him, and he hearkened to his supplication and they restored him to jerusalem, to his kingdom." They [the sages] answered him: they restored him to his kingdom, but not to [his portion in] the world to come.

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

Paul begins to show God's distinguishing God's chosen people, first by going back to Isaac, who was chosen over Ishmael.

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

He next distinguishes between Jacob and Esau, which is important, as they had the same mother.

11-13 (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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Paul introduces the subject of "election" - independent of human works or parentage. The terms, "love" and "hate" refer to election and non-election.

However, those "not elected" are not removed from God's mercy, for instance:

Deuteronomy 23:7 - Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.

Even though the majority of Jews are not believers in Yeshua, they are still the vessel through which He will bring salvation.

Yeshua reinforced this when speaking to the Samaritan woman:

John 4:22 - Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

14-16  What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy

Having pointed out that God's present dealing with Israel is similar to the way He dealt with Abraham's children in the past, Paul stops to address any false conclusions that might be drawn to this point -- namely that God has been unfair all along. Man cannot earn or control God's mercy, nor does any one group hold exclusive claim to it, as He is God of all. (Again, Paul falls back on this concept within the Shema.) God’s mercy is on a level with His justice.

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.

Paul quotes from Exodus 33:19. Just as Pharaoh served the gracious purpose of God (although he did not believe and was ungrateful and unwilling), in a way, non-believing Israel’s "self-will" also serves His purpose of revealing His truth and saving power.

Exodus 9:16 - And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.

Paul's reference to "power," refers to God's saving power (re: Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18,24; 6:14; 2 Corinthians 13:4).

The concept of the "name" of God ties back to His revelation to Moses:

Exodus 3:14 - And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Also Yeshua's name:

Matthew 1:21 - And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Yeshua: for he shall save his people from their sins.

(See our notes on Matthew chapter 1.)

Yeshua connects His name with that given to Moses:

John 8:58 - Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

(Our Revelation study goes into the mystical relationship between Yeshua and the "name of God" in greater detail.)

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

This verse needs to be understood in light of verse15 above. God does not do things randomly and cruelly, but as part of His merciful will. (re: Romans 8:28, 11:32)

19-21  Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 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? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Paul returns to his earlier argument, where he had stated:

Romans 3:7 - For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

Here, "God" is the God revealed through Yeshua, whose will is one of mercy. Conversely, "man" is the created, sinful man of Rom. 5:12-21, who is the object of God's mercy (be he Moses or Pharaoh -- a believer or an unbeliever.) Therefore this "man" has no right to question God. The "potter" has no evil intentions – all his handiwork is for his purpose.

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:

The term "fitted" (katartizo), is in the "middle voice" and lends itself to the subjects, "first fitting themselves." It does not mean "predestined and having no choice."

God’s wrath expresses His sovereignty and His mercy, since it brings about repentance and obedience unto salvation:

Ezekiel 20:33-34 - As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.

Ezekiel 20:42-44 - And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

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

The term "prepared" (proetoimazo), has more of a meaning of "being ordained and equipped beforehand." In these verses, Paul is showing that as God endured Pharaoh, he now endures rebellious Israel -- in this case it is for the sake of gentile salvation -- His purpose from the beginning.

All of this illustrates His ultimate saving power, showing both His patience/mercy and His wrath. This concept will be illuminated in Romans 9:30-11:36.

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

The fact that gentiles as well as Jews are in the body of Messiah as "vessels of mercy," shows that those who are considered "vessels of wrath" (i.e., the "gentile world"), are not permanently shut out from God's grace.

Paul also wrote of this in his letter to the Ephesians, explaining to gentiles that they were once children of wrath and thus destined for destruction:

Ephesians 2:11-12 - Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.

As He is merciful to gentiles, He will be merciful to Israel.

Note that verse 24 is a conclusion of one thought (some gentiles and a remnant of Jews make up the "elect"), and a transition to another (that all Israel will be saved).

25-26  As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 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.

Paul quotes Hosea, which originally applied to the northern kingdoms, who were once "lost" and constituted an unbelieving majority. He extends this verse (via midrash), to show God’s salvation of gentiles.

27-29  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: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 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.

Paul quotes Isaiah (1:9 and 10:22-23), which concern God’s election of Israel, to show that the existence of a small remnant of believing Jews (and majority of unbelieving Jews), was foretold in scripture. He shows that God’s election of Israel was not for a purpose of excluding people, but of including all the nations in the earth’s redemption. Paul will go on to state in chapters 10 and 11, that God is not done with Israel, but that this is a stage they must pass through.

Psalm 44:20-23 - If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.

30-33  What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

In true Pharisaical fashion, Paul poses a question to make a point. He shows that God indeed has granted righteousness to the gentiles, but in no way do they replace Israel. This verse, out of context from the following chapters, can easily be used to reach a false conclusion. As we will see, Paul repeats the question in chapter 11, and gives the answer there.

To pursue the Torah on the basis of faith is a good thing and not done away with by faith in Yeshua (e.g., Romans 3:31). Torah observance is not what Paul condemns. However, to pursue the Torah apart from faith (i.e., "earning your salvation") is to "stumble over the stone."

Paul states that much of Israel has stumbled over the Torah and the Messiah. These are intertwined as Torah and Messiah are "one," and that "one" is the covenant plan of God, expressed in the Torah and enacted in the Messiah. Israel did not arrive at the goal of the Torah, which is Yeshua (Romans 10:4).

The stumbling stone and the object of faith are all at once; God, Messiah and Torah. God is both a sanctuary and stumbling stone to Israel:

Isaiah 8:14 - And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 28:16 - Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.


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