I have been privileged and blessed to have had the opportunity to study the word of God over the course of the last 20+ years. I have delighted in my discovery of the truths found in the pages of scriptures, all the while realizing that I still know very little of the magnitude of its insight. There are treasures of wisdom and beauty that cannot be matched in any other book in this world. I have especially loved addressing those text that leave us with a glorious insight into the person of the Lord Jesus. Whether we are left in awe by those passages that speak of His Deity, whether our hearts be lifted to the heavens when we examine the power of His atonement or even if we are left broken in ourselves when we read of His righteousness and humility, the person of Christ always leaves us breathless. There are some cases when examining the scriptures that we really need to accept things that perhaps seem almost strange to our thinking. We consider a text only to be left confused as to how this God we worship is presented to us. It can be human tendency to find certain aspects of the Holy Scriptures as being almost perplexing to our simplistic minds. How we deal with these amazing statements or descriptions of the Holy One is truly the important question. We might be tempted to simply doubt the plain meaning of certain passages because we are bothered or even offended by them. It is nothing new for someone to re-interpret certain passages to relieve the uneasiness we have in seeing God a certain way. Of course, I am not implying that most Christians are guilty of this type of reinterpretation however I feel when certain are left discomforted then they plainly skip over certain passages or re-explain them completely. We all have our presuppositions prior to addressing the bible so we might all be guilty of this in some way or another. I believe what is often missing in this discomfort is the realization that this is truly the beauty of scripture. We cannot fully figure out God! We are often left awestruck by His grander. To understand the God Yahweh, you are going to have to put the time and effort in to really expound certain texts of scripture, all the while you may still not have a full understanding of the text.
With all this said it is unfortunate that there have still been many different interpretations. There are many controversies that have emerged throughout the years, and it is not uncommon for even the most fundamental doctrines of scripture to have been scrutinized by Christians. This is not inherently a bad thing, if for no other reason than the importance of understanding that biblical truths are worthy of such careful considerations. We are accountable to preserve the faith that was once and for all passed down to us no matter how controversial the teaching is. Yet, it’s human nature for men, whether consciously or not, to confuse or re-interpret basic biblical truths based upon human logic or sentimentalism. What becomes a difficult task is when the doctrine disputed is one that is, as some have put it, “in-house” or within the assembly instead of with outsiders. Dialoguing with an “outsider” is far different than with someone in fellowship in the same congregation. I have witnessed brothers in Christ contesting one another’s interpretation of biblical texts with passion yet with gentleness (1 Peter 3:15), or we at least pray this is the manner the disputes are being conducted. What has been the result in some circumstance is that some have come to appreciate truth but unfortunately some have made a rash decision in dividing from each other in some instances.
One such subject has been on the topic of God’s Sovereignty verses human free will especially in regards to what it the final arbitrary of an individual’s salvation. It is the age-old debate between those of the monergistic[i] perspective verses the synergistic[ii] view. It is attempting to answer the question: who controls salvation? Does God’s decision become the primary factor or man’s autonomous decision? It’s definitely a topic that lights up the sky with fireworks. There are many texts of scripture that need examination when taking on such a study however my central point of reference with respects to this issue, which is at the heart of this inner ecclesiastical discussion, is the text of Romans 9. It has been one of the more focal texts in the on-going dialogue. There have been many varying interpretations presented to me in the years of my pilgrimage in understanding these precious truths. I have always attempted to listen cautiously to different understandings of these passages and examining why it is I hold to this exposition. Needless to say, I probably haven’t heard all interpretations available however I have been presented with many alternatives to my own. My aim in studying these texts of scripture is not to necessarily persuade people to my view. I am certain that some will agree, and others disagree with my understanding of these precious paragraphs. My hope is that whoever will read this study will take the time to examine the texts of Romans 9 in a fair and honest way. Please do not merely brush off my interpretation simply because you feel you have already come to a conclusion. There are truths so wonderful and foundational for the Christian in this chapter and especially within the whole of the epistle. Even though I am hoping to settle the understanding of these texts for myself, I am certain that I will come again to examine the doctrines of Romans 9 in my lifetime and question my interpretation all over again. Accept my challenge, prepare to wrestle with the text and join me the examination of a controversial yet powerful chapter in the word of God!
A Quick note
I believe that it might be suitable at this time to remind my readers that these following entries are not meant to be exhaustive. Believe it or not my aim is not to write a book on the exegesis of Romans 9 but to share my studies of this chapter with you. With this said, there are a number of books available for those who wish to gather a more thorough exegesis of the chapter. One main recommendation that I may offer is John Piper’s book “The Justification of God”. Dr. Piper truly takes the argumentation for this chapter to a level rarely seen and I believe one may benefit from his research no matter on which side of the issue you may find yourself.[iii]
A secondary plea that I might state from the beginning is that you might take the time to read the footnotes provided to clarify certain statements and texts. Some of the footnotes may contain some further details that I left out of the main text. I believe you will gain far more understanding of my position if the footnotes are referenced along with the main body of the text.
Some Preliminary Thoughts
The epistle to the Romans is an immensely enriching testimony of the teaching on how a man is justified before a righteous and holy God. There is true beauty, comfort and sweetness throughout this epistle, and I believe a thorough examination of the whole letter has value for a lifetime. The letter was written to “all the beloved of God in Rome” (1:7) and there were probably a few churches who met in homes in the main city. This letter is a general address to all those who are among the people of God in that vicinity. It was written by the apostle Paul during his 3rd missionary journey and most scholars date the epistle around 57 AD. Paul was travelling to Rome but first needed to deliver funds to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21 & Romans 15:19-32) prior to his attempt at visiting the churches in the area. There is an argument presented and alluded to in the epistle of a struggle between ethnicities within the churches in Rome mainly between Jews & Gentiles. [iv] Many believe that an expulsion of the Jews by Claudius (Acts 18:2) caused the predominantly Jewish Christian church to be lead or taken over by Gentile Christians. Once the eviction was lifted these Judeo-Christians would have returned to take their former place (Romans 16:3). The Jews seemed to have the desire in reverting back to their OT heritage in order to show their superiority within the ranks of the church. The argumentation throughout Romans is to demonstrate that ethnicity is not a factor in finding favour before God. Paul writes throughout that a man’s justification is not based upon his ethnic background, former covenant relationships, blessings or even by birthright.[v] Justification is acquired through faith in the Son of God (Romans 3:21-31; 4-5:1; 9:30-32; 10:14)[vi] . The blood of Christ is the means by which men[vii] are declared as righteous and having peace with God (Romans 5:1). The theme of the identity of the descendants of Abraham and the children of promise truly marks Paul’s main emphasis. His focus is to demonstrate their equality. His hope was that this barrier that was placed between these two groups would be lifted, and that love would flow for each other as equal members in the family of God.
The Two Main Interpretations
There are two mainline interpretations that are popular or at least seen as feasible and held by the vast majority of Biblicists. The first sees Romans 9 in light of the continuance of what has been argued already in Romans 1-8 in keeping with the subject of justification and the salvation of individuals. This view stems from the fact that people were chosen prior to the beginning of the world to be a people unto God. It is believed that these are the “elect” and have been the recipients of God’s favour without anything they have done. This position would argue that those who have been chosen will effectively be drawn, brought to Christ and are granted faith & repentance which leads to their salvation. In other words, the salvation of individuals is solely based upon the libertarian free will decision of the creator who does all the works necessary for salvation to which we the creature receive as a free gift.[viii] Of course no one is arguing that all these concepts are found in Romans 9 but they are the essence through which Paul is establishing his argument. These are found throughout other portions of scripture[ix] and Romans 9 establishes God’s Sovereignty in salvation.
The other interpretation is that view which sees these texts as being mainly focused upon the future of Israel as a corporate entity rather than individualism. It is brought out that the text of Romans 9 is speaking about national privileges or historical roles in salvation history. Old Testament figures spoken of in these texts such as Jacob & Esau should be taken as being as representing nations in their respective roles. Paul is then not speaking of salvation in these texts at all but merely demonstrating the promise of God to a particular nation. Many who hold to this view state that Paul has shifted away from the arguments presented in Romans 1-8 to deal with the question of the future of Israel without any reference to God’s election in the salvation of individuals.
I will be attempting to defend the former in this small study to which I will state my case and then try to deal with the arguments presented by those who hold to the nationalistic understanding of these passages.
Is Romans 9 a Parenthesis?
Prior to beginning my review of this wonderful chapter, I want to spend a few moments dealing with what is called the parenthetical argument. One of the most frequent contentions in the interpretation of Romans 9 that I hold to is whether or not it is disjoined from Romans 1-8 and how so. There appears to be a break in the text to which Paul turns his focus on his kinsmen according to the flesh. (v.3) The area of disagreement isn’t the apparent shift but just how radical does one want to take this sudden swing in Paul’s argumentation. There is a popular understanding, as we have mentioned, that states that this is a parenthesis to which Paul leaves his flow of thought to deal with the nation of Israel. Others however have argued that Paul is continuing without disruption the argumentation he had previously addressed throughout the epistle. There certainly seems to be a sort of disruption of the flow of the text when we reach Romans 9-11 however it would seem to be reading far too much into this section to say that it is cut off from the rest of the texts presented in chapter 1-8. Paul’s shift is based on tone not necessarily a departure from his point in chapters 1-8 and especially 8:28 and on. Paul proclaimed with joy the promises of God that none would be lost who are Christ’s elect (Romans 8:31-39) yet now he expresses a feeling of lamentations because his countrymen are lost. Paul’s triumphant terminology is replaced with a tone of anguish. The extent of the move is however not parenthetical to such a degree as to cut it off from the preceding verse. The reason I am not persuaded of such an extreme change is due to the undeniable linguistic parallels that we see in Romans 9 and Romans 1-8.
The language between Romans 8 and Romans 9 are too similar to drastically separate these sections. I have found many terms in these two chapters that convince me that there is still a continuance in what Paul had already established throughout the previous chapters in the epistle. Here are some examples:
|Romans 8||Romans 9|
|“Purpose”||to those who are called according to His purpose (proqeiV). (8:28)||God’s purpose (proqeiV) according to His choice would stand (9:11)|
|“Called”[x]||to those who are called (klhtoiV) according to His purpose. (8:28) and these whom He predestined, He also called (ekalesen); and these whom He called(ekalesen), He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (8:30)||THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.(klhjhsetai)” (9:7) God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls(kalountoV), (9:11) even us, whom He also called(ekalesen), not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (9:24)|
|“Adoption”||but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons (uioqesias) (8:15) even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons(uioqesian), the redemption of our body. (8:23)||who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons(uioqesia), (9:4)|
|“Sonship”[xi]||The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children (tekna) of God, (8:16) and if children(tekna), heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (8:17) that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children(teknwn) of God. (8:21)||nor are they all children(tekna) because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8That is, it is not the children (tekna) of the flesh who are children (tekna) of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (9:7-8) (note: also see use of “sons” in Romans 8:14,19 with Romans 9:9,26)|
|“Glory”[xii]||For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory (doxan) that is to be revealed to us. (8:18) that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory (doxhV) of the children of God. (8:21)||who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory (doxa) (9:4) 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory(doxhV)(9:23)[xiii]|
Some of these themes have been defined throughout the epistle and it would seem quite strange for Paul to suddenly abandon them. Why would Paul spend eight chapters defining them only to depart from it later on in the letter? I don’t believe that he does. The extreme shift is generally due to attributing these texts to nations rather than individuals which I feel is unnecessary. I feel this is, once again, not swaying because all throughout Chapters 1-8 Paul argues of the importance of the individual’s standing before God so why would this suddenly change to argue of corporate nationalistic privileges and roles in salvation history? There is no doubt that Paul has argued from an ethnic perspective throughout the letter (Romans 1-3) however we see that it was individualistic sin in chapters 2-3 that were regarded as deserving of judgment.
Another factor that is relevant to demonstrating that there is no need to depart from Romans 8 in a fundamental fashion is the parallel paradigms of the separation from God found at the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9. Notice the terminology used by Paul in 8:31-39:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written,”FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is clear from the above language that Paul had in mind to demonstrate the preservation of those who were Christ’s people (the elect) through the faithfulness of the one who would conserve them. What great comfort is brought from Paul’s words that nothing that exists, whether powers, governments or any created thing can separate us from the love of God. Paul’s words would have especially been an immense comfort to those who were struggling with tensions and persecution from local authorities and Jewish opposers. The God of faithfulness and of promise could not fail! Our God will never renege his promise to bring about the fulfilment of their final glorification. This causes a tremendous problem since there was a serious objection that would have been raised. How can we believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God when Israel was promised the same thing, yet they are separated from Christ? Paul’s lamentations are focused on this very fact that, as we will see, the point of Paul’s anguish was that these recipients of the Old Covenant promise were “accursed” from God. The issue of arguing that none are separated yet in chapter 9 Israelites were separated shows that there is a flow of argumentation being presented between 8 & 9 and therefore these chapters are to be considered together. [xiv]
The Grief for His Countrymen (Vs. 1-5)
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Paul begins this chapter with words of true heartfelt grief towards the recipients. He truly wants them to feel and experience his anguish! Paul brings this out with words to emphasize the incredible sorrow he has been burdened when considering those who are his kinsmen according to the flesh. He begins with “I am telling you the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit”. His use of the terms “in Christ” and “in the Holy Spirit” demonstrates that his following words should be carefully considered. The recipients would have taken his language seriously simply due to these expressions. Paul is writing of his grief for Israel with a purpose! He wants the readers to really consider his love for his people. Greek Scholar Kenneth Wuest writes:
“Heaviness’ is lupe, “sorrow, pain grief”, used of persons mourning. “Sorrow” is odune, “consuming grief”. Its verbal form odunao means “to cause intense pain, to be in anguish, to be tormented”[xv]
There is suffering in his mind when penning these phrases to the Romans. His words seem similar to many lamentations for Israel found in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 14:17; Ezra 8:16; 10:24,29) He is continuously grieved for his countrymen and his love for them is so great that he would even be willing to sacrifice himself on their behalf.[xvi] V.3 begins with For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. The term “for” denotes the reason why Paul was experiencing “great sorrow and unceasing grief”. They were “accursed” and separated from Christ. The term “accursed” is the Greek word “anathema”[xvii] or someone who has been excommunicated from something. Notice the usage of this word in the negative[xviii] in the New Testament[xix]:
1 Corinthians 12:3
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed“; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 16:22
If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed Maranatha
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
The intensity of the anathema shows the love that Paul had for his countrymen in that he wanted to suffer in their place (huper). The question is: Why did Paul want to exchange places with them? The answer is: because it was their fate! He was willing to sacrifice himself for them! (10:1; 11:14) There is no other alternative to demonstrate his desire to substitute for them unless it was their condition at that moment! The Israelites were cut-off from their Messiah! This is similar to what we see in the Old Testament with Moses: On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32“But now, if You will, forgive their sin–and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:30-32) Paul’s sorrow was for those who shared in his ethnic background mainly they were his brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh. They were his countrymen and Israelites (v.4).[xx] Paul extends his identification of those for whom he grieved by defining exactly who they were and what they had received. The list of privileges these Israelites had received would, in essence, dictate why they shouldn’t be lost! The main reason they shouldn’t have been accursed is that they were Israelites. They were the chosen people and the children of Abraham who were identified repeatedly as Jehovah’s people. Paul lists several defining features that separated them from every nation as the blessed ones of God. They were sons and had the glory, the covenants, the law, worship services instituted by God Himself, the promises and most importantly from whom is the Christ.
This creates a tremendous problem in that those who were promised these blessings (even though they believed it was through ancestral descent) are now cut-off or accursed from their Messiah. Paul will take up the argument in the next section that the promises are not due or owed to anyone because of a birthright but the promise is given because one is a child of promise. His argument will stem from the idea of a remnant which God has chosen to be His people and not because of the natural birth into a nation. It is of the spiritual birth (John 3:3-6; 1 John 5:1) that one becomes a child of God, and this is caused by God (1 Peter 1:2). These were the ones to receive the promises because through God’s choice of a people. This idea of God’s choosing His people was certainly nothing new especially to the Jews in Rome since it is found in the Old Testament. God’s word is not tarnished but fully preserved in election.
I plead with my readers not to forget what we just saw in vs.1-5 since the whole point of the rest of this chapter to chapter 11 is to deal with the problem these verses have presented us. To stray away or forget these verses will bring about some peculiar exegesis of these texts.
The Word of God Has Not Failed (Vs. 6)
But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
Paul begins this section with a statement that leads back to his original point of reference mainly of the accursedness of his countrymen. He writes “but it is not as though the word of God has failed”. Please take a moment to ponder what exactly Paul is trying to argue from this small phrase. The question this is answering is whether or not the word of God had failed if the Israelites were accursed. Has God gone back on His promises to Israel? The whole point of the epistle thus far was to show that one was not guaranteed salvation because of the covenant, the law or by birthright. The Jews of Paul’s day would have believed that the promises were for all physical descendants of Israel not matter what. The only reason one could lose that right was because of an extreme form of apostasy (John 8:33-58). Paul is arguing against this notion in that being born of Israel doesn’t guarantee the individual Israelite’s salvation (Romans 2:1-29; 4:1-16) This is why Paul answers the assertion of the authenticity of the word of God by stating that not all Israel is descended of Israel. It is those who have faith and that are justified that are the children of Abraham. These who are a remnant are a smaller group within the larger national identity of Israel. It is important to remember that Paul’s whole point was to deal with people within Israel and not argue the privileges of different nations. Paul will argue from a principle to show that all things flow from the choice of God even His choice to whom He gives the blessings.
Isaac & Ishmael (Vs.7-9)
7nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
In v.7 Paul begins his defence from the OT as to why the word of God has not faltered. He begins with defining that the term “Israel” was not for all who were born into a natural family. He uses the example of Abraham‘s descendants who were the basis for understanding who Israel is since they came from Abraham. Paul wants to draw out the point that even within the term Israel that not all are Abraham’s seed. Paul quotes here from Genesis 21:12: But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. This is the passage where Jehovah had responded to Abraham’s reluctance to banish Ishmael and Haggar. The calling of Isaac was more than simply giving the promise of physical offspring since God also gave them to Ishmael as well (Genesis 17:20; 21:23). What advantage did Isaac have over Ishmael? It was with Isaac that the promise was given for the covenant (Genesis 17:21). Ishmael was a child of the flesh, but Isaac was a child of the flesh and a child of promise. The basis of Isaac’s advantage was based on God’s good pleasure since God chose to bestow the blessing on him rather than Ishmael! Ishmael could demand nothing from God and neither could Isaac boast of anything. Therefore the children of flesh are not children of God because they were not the children of promise. The promise is God’s to give to whom He pleases! It is sometimes argued that this should be taken as Isaac’s privileges in historical salvation but I don’t feel this is convincing. There certainly seems to be more insinuated by Paul than merely a back reference because of the way he uses “children of God”. Notice it’s usage in the following verses:
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him., that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
Children of God is used to express all who belong to God as sons and partake in salvation. With that said, let us look at yet another expression in v.8 that gives substantiation that this is not only speaking of historical roles but of salvation. The expression is regarded as or “reckoned as”. Paul had just defined this expression throughout Romans as being interlinked with justification especially considering explaining the result of Abraham’s faith. (Romans 4:3,5,22; Galatians 3:6). Those who are reckoned as descendants are justified and are by very definition the children of God![xxi]
Children of promise:
I feel an important link to this passage with the idea of individualism is the expression “Children of promise” which is also used in Genesis 21:12 but more importantly how it is defined by Paul in Romans 4:13,14,16 & 20.
The term “Children of promise” is what Paul concentrates on in v.9. Paul begins with the term “for” which once again gives reason to vs. 7-8. Notice Paul quotes Genesis 18:10: He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”. It is important to remember that this text is also associated with Genesis 17:15-16: “Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16″I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Paul’s whole point of quoting Genesis 18 was to show that God was the one who interfered to instigate the birth of Isaac to fulfil His purposes and to bring to Himself a people. God’s powerful intrusion was to secure his ultimate plan for the destiny of the lineage of promise. You see, once again, God has always been the one who has chosen who would be His people!!! The promises were given to Isaac based upon God’s choosing and working out His purposes. This had nothing to do with a birthright!
One final point that is worth mentioning is found in Genesis 17:7-8 where we read: I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” In this text Jehovah states that He will be the God of Isaac which is something He could not say regarding Ishmael. Why? Because Ishmael was a child of the flesh! The Israelites were “cut-off” for this very reason in that they were not the children of promise but were declared much like Ishmael as children of flesh. The promises are to Isaac and the remnant or the called (Genesis 21:12/ Romans 9:7) Those who are called are the ones justified and finally glorified (Romans 8:28-29) God is demonstrating that even in the final state of affairs in the future glory that people will be there as children of promise due to God’s choice in calling them for His purpose of justifying them by faith.
Jacob & Esau (Vs. 10-13)
10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
Paul now turns to Rebecca with the intent to once again demonstrate that the promise was never received due to the birthright but because of God’s choice. Both Jacob & Esau had the same mother and father hence there could be no argument from a special privilege due to differing parents. Considering Jewish thought, a firstborn son always held the preeminent position among his family and was entitled to double the portion of his father’s inheritance. The firstborn was also a ruler of his father’s affairs. In other words, the older was to be the heir! Once again, God, through His sovereignty, chose the younger to show that His choice would be the ultimate factor of being a child of promise. There was absolutely no natural difference between the two to argue that one had a special natural privilege over the other. As v.11 indicates there was nothing in either of them to discriminate between the two boys because the choice was made even prior to their birth and independent from it! There was absolutely no bias in God’s choice of one over the other. Notice that God didn’t merely predict what would happen, but it was according to His selection (election) or so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand. Could it have been otherwise? No! God had a plan and a purpose in both these men’s lives prior to their birth and their destinies were planned beforehand! (c.f. Romans 8:28-30) We must focus on the fact that Isaac & Jacob were chosen while Ishmael & Esau were not, and we ask on what basis? God’s purpose in election! God doesn’t depend on fallen finite men to fulfil His purposes and His plans.[xxii] This is exactly what is happening within Israel: some are chosen, and some are not!
Paul ends this little section on Jacob & Esau with a quotation from Malachi 1: Just as it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. Jacob was the one given the name “Israel’ (Genesis 32:28) through whom the 12 tribes would come to exist. This quotation is central in the debate on whether the following texts are referring to individuals or nations. It should be noted that both Jacob & Esau were used of representing nations and individuals in scripture.[xxiii] There are those who hold to Corporate Election who would argue that this is clearly arguing for Jacob & Esau being referred to as nations because the quotation from Malachi 1 is representing them as that very thing. It is asserted that when Paul says “Jacob I loved” it is referring to God’s election for privileges and “Esau I hated” is referring to God’s rejection of that nation[xxiv]. Even though I can see why a person would come to this conclusion I feel that it fails because of the following reasons:
- We just read in vs. 10-11 that Paul is focused on individuals rather than nations. How do we know this? It is far more difficult to link “conception, birth and works” to a “nation’ rather than an individual.[xxv]
- Relating Jacob & Esau to nations just doesn’t deal with the whole purpose of Paul’s argument as to why the word of God has not failed when the covenant people are accursed. How does telling the Romans that Israel was chosen for privileges and Edom isn’t deal with Paul’s anguish in vs. 1-3? Why would Paul have wanted to be separated from Christ for them simply because of Israel having privileges over Edom? Paul is clearly contrasting between physical Israel and the Remnant.[xxvi]
- Once again, the terminology isn’t focusing on “roles” per say but terms such as “election” (11:5-7), call (8:28), not of works (4:2-8) are defined elsewhere as relating to justification!!!![xxvii]
- Lastly and most importantly, Paul is linking individuals in their relationship to the promises and God’s purposes. The nations (Israel & Edom) would have come from the individuals and the point isn’t which nation or even individual God uses for roles or privileges but how does one become a child of promise!!! Some Jews were chosen, and some were not. (vs.24-29)
To this point one might argue that they still see these as promises of blessing to men and their seed. I would not argue that this is not so however, with that said, could Paul not merely be arguing from a principle from the Old Testament to rectify the problem of vs.1-5? Can we not allow Paul to interpret his own words in using references in the OT to show principles applied in the NT? I feel that if Paul is arguing to merely show how one nation has privileges and one doesn’t based on God’s choice just simply deviates away from everything that come prior to these texts. God’s choice to call according to His purpose seems to be pointing to far more than our corporate promoters are willing to admit.
One final point should be made before moving on. The argumentation from Paul in 6-13 is continued in vs. 24-29. Notice what Paul states in v.24 where we read: even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Emphasis mine) The calling of God, as we have seen, is linked with salvation (also see v.27). Please take notice that it is “from among” not “each and every” Jew or Gentile. Once again, this is speaking of individuals within these ethnic categories and not entire nations in roles. This is similar to that which we find in Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” These scriptures are not demonstrating corporate entities as being called or purchased but among different ethnic backgrounds.
The Will of God (Vs. 14-16)
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Paul now reverts to a writing format popular in his time called a diatribe. In other words, he uses an imaginary dialogue to express his thoughts. He had just finished arguing that it is God who chooses who will be His people and furthers this argument by introducing the imaginary objector to the text to pursue his argumentation in the form of this dialogue. The questions Paul presents through this objector would not have been new to Paul since in all likelihood he would have dealt with these forms of arguments in his ministry. Professor Moo writes
Indeed, these questions state the inevitable human response to an insistence on the sovereignty of God in salvation: if God decides apart from anything in the human being whom he will choose and whom he will reject (v.13), how can he still be “righteous” (v.14)- and how can he blame people if they reject him (v.19)?[xxviii]
The question Paul is dealing with is: does choosing or rejecting individuals apart from their own merit or even faith attribute injustice on God’s part? How can God be a just God if this is the case? Isn’t this unfair? Paul rejects this notion outright by stating “by no means” or “may it never be”. V.15 then explains why it can never be that there is injustice on God’s part. Paul begins by showing he is not going to ignore this offensive charge. Paul defends his objection to this allegation by quoting the words of Jehovah in Exodus 33:19. In this Paul is looking back at when Moses had requested a glimpse of God’s glory and Jehovah replied by causing all His goodness to pass by Moses. This act was to proclaim His name YHWH. The section quoted shows that God is free to show mercy to whom He chooses. This is a fundamental right that God had to reveal to Moses if He desired. I would argue that this is, once again, a principle based upon the OT. God is free to have mercy or to harden anyone He pleases and there is nothing man can say about it! Those who hold to God having to offer salvation equally to all men never take into consideration that God has a right to choose with whom He will spend eternity. Paul then continues with v.16 by stating: So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy which is ushered in to finalize his argument in defending the justice of God. The term “it” in the phrase it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy has been a contested term to which some have attributed all sorts of interesting interpretations. Many have argued that it is most likely salvation or election which, to my understanding, is true but I feel the stronger understanding would be derived from what was just said. In other words, the “it” is probably linked to God having mercy on whom He wills.
Hardening of Pharaoh (vs. 17-18)
17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
The next portion I want to address is the hardening of Pharaoh. This judgment upon Egypt’s ruler relates back to the freedom of God and furthers the argumentation we just saw. We see that vs. 15-16 are the positive explanation of God’s election and now in vs.17-18, Paul presents the negative side of the issue. It must be clearly recognized that the term “hardening” is put there to oppose the term “mercy” and to give it meaning. To ignore this fact will turn the entire passage on its head. So, in opposition to God having mercy on whom He wills in the example of Moses, God also hardens whom He wills. It must be recognized that God had “raised up” or “appointed” the hardening of Pharaoh for a purpose. The purpose was to bring glory to Himself and to make His name known! Remember, everything from the plagues to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army to the liberation of the Hebrew people was due to Pharaoh’s hardened heart so that Jehovah could show His power and proclaim His name. Much like the mercy not being based upon anything in the individual, the hardening is logically seen in this way as well! Is it possible for God to use a king by purposing his destruction to bring about His glory? Seemingly this is the very issue we are addressing in this text.
It should be noted that the argument for the raising of Pharaoh is oftentimes linked to the national purposes. Pharaoh is seen as representative of Egypt as a nation. It would be difficult to prove this seeing that it is clearly stated in Exodus 4-14 that it was the ruler of Egypt (not Egypt) that was hardened. Of course, this is not the only counterargument to my understanding of this text. It is also argued that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and that God merely used Pharaoh’s hardening to show His power. Dr. Norman Geisler writes:
The scripture makes it very clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart…while it is true that God predicted in advance that it would happen (Ex. 4:12), nonetheless the fact is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first (7:13; 8:15 ect), and God only hardened it later (9:12; 10:1, 20,27)[xxix]
This argument falls short when we examine v.18. The verse says that GOD HARDENS WHOM HE DESIRES. Paul’s whole argument flows very well when we allow God His sovereign choice in whom would be His people. God said long before Pharaoh hardened his heart that He would harden him (see Exodus 4:21 & 7:31) and this was more than God merely passing by and allowing Pharaoh to harden his own heart. Paul argues that Pharaoh was raised up for this very purpose to demonstrate God’s wrath. The question that needs to be asked is could Pharaoh have not hardened his heart? Could he have just let the people go and thwarted God’s purposes in glorifying Himself? There is an action being done here by the Lord! Besides, how does saying that Pharaoh hardening his own heart link together with the accusation of God being unjust?
Turning to v.19, we see from the standpoint of the imaginary objector who asks several questions including Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will. Paul then answers with rhetorical questions of his own. What is amazing about the first question asked by the imaginary objector is that it is a very natural objection to the doctrine of God’s sovereign election. How can God still find fault with people if He’s the one who hardens them? The term “fault”[xxx] should be enough to convince us that Paul is speaking here of salvation. The term speaks of transgression or an offence! He is obviously speaking of eternal destinies here when we look at the entire argument in vs. 22-23. If hardness and mercy are not based upon man’s willing or running but God then why in the world, how does He still find fault in men for their hardness? Nobody resists God almighty! The most common objection raised by people who deny unconditional election is that it undermined responsibility and fairness. What should be noted clearly is that Paul is going to argue otherwise! Notice that Paul nowhere mentions faith or works here as the basis of God’s hardening.
The Potter’s right (Vs.19-23)
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
Paul continues in v.20-21 with developing his first question. The following question “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” is set forward to demonstrate the utter difference between God and man. His answer is a quotation from Isaiah 29:16 with the purposeto clearly articulate that man is subordinate to God. God has a right as creator which is one of total ownership to use His creation as He wills. It is much like the potter who used the pot he moulded as He pleases. J. Piper writes:
It behoves every great artist to demonstrate in the variety of his work the full range of his skill and power. And, according to Paul, it is God’s right and his great desire to manifest the full range of his character in the things that he does. This includes wrath and tremendous power in its execution. [xxxi]
The potter makes different types of vessels in all shapes and sizes for different purposes. The image of the potter was nothing new to the recipients of the letter seeing it has widespread usage throughout the OT (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:7 Job 10:9; 38:14; Jeremiah 18:1-6). The corporate view seems to state this is still a nationalistic/corporate reference to roles. They argue that the texts quoted are from Isaiah 45:9-11 and Jeremiah 18:1-6 which is speaking of Israel. Paul doesn’t seem to be arguing as much or at least in a primary sense on those texts but it seemingly referencing Isaiah 29:15-16:
Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, And whose deeds are done in a dark place, And they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?”
16You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
The portion of this text in Isaiah is not speaking of Israel as a whole but of men within Israel (individuals) who were “proud men, who claim so much power to themselves that they cannot endure the authority of God, and entertain a false opinion about themselves, which leads them to despise all exhortations, as if they had been gods.”[xxxii] Once again this is Paul using the OT texts to demonstrate a principle which he brings into the new to rectify the problem of vs. 1-5.
Vs 22-23 demonstrate the utter contrast between the vessels of honour and those of dishonour. Paul argues that God has withheld His wrath upon those prepared for destruction so that He could demonstrate His righteous judgment upon them. Once again there is an action on God’s part which leads to the fulfilment of His purposes. The ultimate purpose is that He might show His mercies to those prepared for glory. We cannot truly appreciate mercy unless there is wrath in the same way we cannot truly understand the kindness if we’ve never experienced a lack of empathy. It has been argued by a few that mercy doesn’t necessarily equate to salvation however Paul seemingly saw them as synonymous if we examine his usage elsewhere. These texts are very similar to what we saw in Romans 8:29: For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren and the language seems quite clear that God had “prepared” both these groups beforehand which is certainly like the thought of predestination.
Those who interpret the Old Testament texts as referring to Israel as a nation and not individuals parallel these to 2 Timothy 2:20.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
As we can see Paul uses similar terminology in these texts and it is argued that God uses nations or people in either a negative or positive role or for diverse works. Some of those roles are of gold and silver while the negative is of wood and earthenware. The problem with using this interpretation in Romans 9 is how do we apply this to the problem of unbelieving Jews who are cut off from Christ? How does God using negative roles vs. Positive roles account for the anguish Paul is experiencing? The whole point of the text in Romans 9:20-21 is to demonstrate God as creator. Paul uses the verb “plasso” to demonstrate creatorship as to mold, as with clay or wax from which the aorist active participle used here (toi plasanti) comes. It is a familiar idea in the Old Testament, the absolute power of God as creator like the potter’s use of the clay.[xxxiii] Paul defines that the vessels of honour are bound for glory while those for dishonour are prepared for wrath not different types of works. Even though I can see a parallel in the language I can also see a very distinct usage within their respective contexts.
It is the Lord’s right as creator of all things to use His creation as He sees fit to bring glory unto Himself by demonstrating His mercy on some and His wrath on others. He owes nothing to us since it would have been right for the Lord to have used us all as vessels of dishonour but the Lord chose to be merciful to some sinners in a way that was different than others. Who are we to talk back to God if He sees fit to do so?
The Remnant (Vs 24-29)
even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25As He says also in Hosea,”I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.'” 26″AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.” 27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED; 28FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.” 29And just as Isaiah foretold, “UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH.”
Paul begins v.24 by linking it with the idea of the “vessels of mercy” in giving us further details in regards to who these actually entail. He begins with “even us” which associates the passages without any break. The very characteristic by which they, the vessels of mercy, are defined is by the fact that they were “called”. The term “called’ refers to the same terminology used in Romans 8:28-30 mainly that of an effectual or definite calling which guarantees their coming. Some have attempted to tone down this term by stating that the “called” here is merely referring to the gospel invitation which is universally open to both Jews & Gentiles. I am not persuaded by this argument and feel it is speaking of the effectual calling of God “from” both Jews & Gentiles and not of “all” Jews & Gentiles.[xxxiv] The whole point of emphasis here and throughout vs. 24-29 is that of inclusion vs. exclusion.
In order to substantiate v.24, Paul brings in quotations from the Old Testament. The two first quotations (vs. 25-26) are meant to show that the calling was of Gentiles while the quotations in vs. 27-29 are to prove the assertion of the calling of the Remnant. Hosea 2:23 is quoted firstly and then Hosea 1:10 that the children of promise are not only from among Jews but now Gentiles have been brought into the promise. (Romans 11:17-24). The citations are referring particularly to the tribes of Israel in their original context but, once again, I feel they are being used as a principle and applying it to the Gentiles (see 1 Peter 2:8-10). These are very similar to the words of Matthew: I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) In other words those who were rejected in past times are now seen as sons while now he says to those who thought themselves to be his sons “you are not my people”. So, in other words, the vessels of mercy are a group who are called “from among Gentiles”.
With that said, Paul then turns to validate the 2nd part of the vessels of mercy mainly “from among the Jews”. Once again, it goes back to vs. 1-5 where he is arguing that God is still faithful to His promises even though the Israelites were accursed. Paul’s quotations from Isaiah in vs.27-29 further what we had just seen in vs. 6-23 in that God has preserved his promises through a remnant. Paul quotes from Isaiah 10:22 firstly to demonstrate that the remnant that God has chosen and which he has been arguing since the beginning of this chapter, consists of the ones who would be “saved”. The crying out of Isaiah is similar to the lamentations found in the opening passages. Isaiah is expressing his suffering at the condition of his countrymen. V.28 simply strengthens this entire paradigm by bringing in the idea of the preservation of Yahweh in that there would not have been anything left if God would have left the promises based upon Israel’s faithfulness. God needed to go outside the barriers of Israel to find a faithful people which essentially consists of a Remnant of Jews along with Gentiles.
Once again, this shows the idea that God has always had a people and that the ultimate factor of one becoming a child of promise is based upon the Sovereign choice and work of Jehovah rather than the libertarian free will of men. If it was left up to man to become a child of promise, there would not be children of God!
There is much more we could examine in the text of Romans 9 but I will leave it to my readers to continue in their studies to discover the truths therein. My aim was to write some thoughts on the text from a perspective that sees God’s sovereign hand in the salvation of a people who were called forth to be the recipients of his grace through His Son! My examination, as mentioned in the introductory remarks, was not to offer an extensive study of this precious chapter but to settle the issue for me. I wanted to delve into the mind of Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit and seek to appreciate the wonderful blessings that are for those God has chosen. My intentions were not to bring about a controversy in my own mind but to gain a better understanding and answer some of the objections that I have come across over the course of my short Christian life. I am perfectly content with my undertaking and appreciate not all will be convinced by my exegesis of this text. If some have taken the time to scrutinize it in detail, then I have accomplished something wonderful even if their findings do not match mine. God’s sovereignty in salvation and human responsibility have been deeply pondered by greater minds than I and many have never come to a satisfying conclusion. I cannot understand these things to a full extent, but I am happy to examine them and know they are there. If these truths are actually found in the pages of scripture, then we have a responsibility to give them our attention no matter how difficult they are to accept or comprehend.
[i] Monergism is derived from two words mainly mono meaning “alone” or “one” and ergos which is “working”. In other words in regards to salvation God is working alone in the salvation of individuals.
[ii] Synergism is the idea that there is a cooperation between two parties or that of two parties that work together for the salvation of individuals. God provides salvation and man contributes his faith in order to bring about an individual’s redemption.
[iii] There has been some mention in published works opposing the Calvinistic position of Dr. Piper’s book however none thus far that I have seen have made any real attempt to wrestle with the issues raised in his book. One unfortunate example of this was Walls & Dongel’s book “Why I am not a Calvinist”. There is a footnote that critiques Piper’s book for seemingly failing to deal adequately with the texts of Romans 10-11. I am not certain why this would be stated since Piper does address several principals and text within those chapters. It is my opinion that Walls & Dongel fail to address the issues raised in vs. 1-5 of the 9th chapter yet due to having respect for them I would spend much more than a footnote in dealing with their arguments. Needless to say their exegesis of Romans 9 is a total of 11 pages while Piper devotes 220 pages to his exegesis. One must wonder what is missing from their analysis.
[iv] Notice the terminology of “law & gospel”, the significance of Abraham and the future of Israel
[v] There are other reasons listed for Paul’s writing of the epistle. Some are quite viable while others are hypothetical to be sure. The one other motive that would be possible was that Paul was preparing a missionary trip to Spain to plant a church (Romans 15:24-29) which he seemingly hoped the Roman churches would assist with. Seeing the theological problems as well as the tension in that community, Paul needed to rectify those issues prior to his journey.
[vi] Over and over again some misrepresent the position of God’s elective decree by arguing that those who hold to this position do not see faith as something relevant to salvation. The truth is that I believe that faith is necessary for true salvation! I believe that faith is a gift of God (Philippians 1:29/ Ephesians 2:8-9) derived from the regeneration of God’s people to enable them to believe. (1 John 5:1) I would argue that in Romans 9 the issue of God’s sovereignty is what is brought in to deal with the problem of Israel’s separation and lack of faith.
[vii] not nations
[viii] This view has been labelled “Calvinism” by some but has no official bearing on this study.
[ix] See John 1:12-13; John 6:37-44;; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14; Ephesians 1:1-14; 2 Thess. 2:13
[x] The term “called” is not the idea of a universal calling but that of an effectual calling. Morris states: “Called brings in the notion of an effectual call once more, a very important concept for Paul. God calls whom He will to call” (“The Epistle to the Romans”, L. Morris, PNTC, Eerdmans, 1988, Page 369) and also “Paul always uses the verb calew and the noun clhtoi , when they have God as the subject of the action, of God’s effective summons by which people are brought into relationship with himself. clhtoi designates Christians in Rom. 1:6,7; 1 Cor. 1:1, 2,24; Jude 1; Rev. 17:14…For calew with God as subject in Paul, see Rom. 4:17; 9:12,24,25,26; 1 Cor. 1:9; 7:15,17,18, 20,21,22,24, Gal. 1:6, 15; 5:8,13; Eph. 4:1,4; Col. 3:15…” (The Epistle to the Romans: NICNT, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans, Page 530)
[xi] There is an argument presented that this “sonship” in ch.9 cannot be related to ch.8 because the blessings are theocratic hence they cannot be the same as those of the church. I don’t feel this argument is strong since the olive tree analogy in ch.11 seems to point to the fact that we have the same blessings as Israel seeing there is only one tree. The natural branches or the unnatural branches are all in the tree hence regardless of one’s ethnic background, all branches are recipients of the blessing it brings including sonship.
[xii] The glory is probably referring to the eschatological glory in Romans 2:7,10; 8:18, Colossians 1:27; 2 Timothy 2:10 ect… seeing that the “doxa” is used without a modifier. It is the same thought as found later on in the chapter when speaking of vessels prepared for glory which includes both Jews and Gentiles.
[xiii] In both these instances it seems to be pointing to an eschatological glory
[xiv] It should be also noted that the original authors did not add chapters and verses to their writings. The addition of divisions can sometimes cause the reader to break the flow of an argument. We must persevere in reading the epistle like a letter rather than a book in order to really experience the flow of the author’s argumentation.
[xv] Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Kenneth Wuest, Eerdman, Page 152
[xvi] Quoting brother John Parkinson: “he (Paul) begins by stating his sincere and selfless love for his “kinsmen according to the flesh” and his highest appreciation of the national blessing…Paul has certainly not become anti-Jewish, but there are important spiritual lessons to be learned from the ways God has sovereignly moved in the history of the nation, and it is these lessons which Paul will now unfold” (The Faith of God’s Elect, John Parkinson, Gospel Tract Publications, Page 22) I am unfortunately wondering if Mr. Parkinson took the time to really delve into the deep emotional lamentations that Paul expresses to us in these texts. Paul is wishing to substitute himself for them because they are accursed. There just seems to be a lack of understanding the severity of the words of the apostle. The problem that is derived from taking the words of Paul in vs. 1-5 too lightly is that we tend to view the rest of the chapter in such a way that we lack the thrust of the presentation.
[xvii] The term anaqhma is defined as “a man accursed, devoted to the direst woes…doomed and so separated from Christ” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexcon of the New Testament, J. Thayer, Hendrickson, Page 37).
[xviii] The term can be used in a positive fashion as in Leviticus 27:28 or Luke 21:5
[xix] It is also used with a negative meaning in the Old Testament in Deut. 13:16,18; Joshua 6:17-18; Zechariah 14:11
[xx] Some have argued that this section must be speaking of a national corporate election due to Paul’s use of the name “Israelites” rather than “Jews”. There is a substantial problem with this argumentation in that the blessings he is associating them with are not political or focused necessarily on nationality but they are especially referring to the special religious position these people held.
[xxi] D. Moo writes: “The phrase “reckoned as” likewise translates a Greek phrase that Paul elsewhere uses only when referring to Gen. 15:6, a text that Paul quotes to prove that Abraham’s faith brought him into righteous relationship with God (Rom. 4:3,5,22; Gal. 3:6)- The Epistle to the Romans: NICNT, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans, Page 577
[xxii] Some will argue that in v.11 Paul is not speaking of salvation per say but how the promise would be passed on. This is not a persuasive argument seeing the terminology used such as “good and evil” and “not of works” (Romans 4:2-8
[xxiii] Jacob as nation: Numbers 23:7; Psalm 14:7; Isaiah 59:20/ Esau as nation: Genesis 36:8; Jeremiah 49:8-10
[xxiv] I am not necessarily stating that the term “loved…hated” can’t be taken as acceptance or rejected. I do feel the usage in the New Testament of hated (miseo) seems to show something more than mere rejection. (Matt. 6:24-where miseo and agapao are seen as opposites; Luke 14:26; John 12:25) but most lexicons agree it is not intended to present a sort of malice towards another. My main point here is that this text is not merely speaking of the acceptance and rejection of nations based upon theocratic privileges but it is arguing for a principle that God’s sovereign purpose and choice are the key to receiving all blessings including salvation.
[xxv] I am not denying that this is possible since we are told that nations were in the womb however the point here is not to place emphasis on the choosing of a nation but rather the choosing of an individual.
[xxvi] John Piper writes: “many individual Israelites within the chosen people are not saved (cf Rom 11:14). Paul is not moved to constant grief (9:2) because corporate Israel has forfeited her non-salvific “theocratic privileges” while another people (the church or the remnant) has taken over this “historical role” He is grieved because all the privileges of Israel listed in Romans 9:4,5 imply the eschatological, eternal salvation of this people but many individual Israelites- his kinsmen according to the flesh- are damned in their unbelief. Therefore the solution which Rom 9:6-13 develops in response to this problem, must address the issue of individual, eternal salvation. (The Justification of God, 2nd ed., John Piper, Baker books, P.65)
[xxvii] Notice the consistent usage of certain terms within these passages and how Paul defines them throughout his epistle. These terms are consistently used to bring out the means by which an “individual” is declared as “righteous” or “justified” which are all associated with or synonymous with Children of promise, Children of God, Descendants, Counted, Called and Not of works
[xxviii] The Epistle to the Romans: NICNT, Douglas Moo, Eerdmans, Page 590
[xxix] Chosen but Free, Norman Geisler, Bethany House, Pag 90
[xxx] The term used here is memphetai which is also used in Hebrews 8:8
[xxxi] The Justification of God, 2nd ed., John Piper, Baker books, Page 187
[xxxii] Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume 7, John Calvin, Baker Books, Page 329-330
[xxxiii] Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson, Broadman, Page 384
[xxxiv] See Footnote #10 for further argument of this term.