Bible Study: Romans 9
Romans 9:1-33
Why has God elected unsuspecting Gentiles for salvation ahead of Jews possessing every advantage of obtaining it first?
Published August 17th, 2018; Updated August 17th, 2018
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Main point summary
Romans 9
Study Questions
1. Introduction 1a. The Sovereignty of God Have group members read out the following passages: Psalm 115:3 Psalm 135:6 Isaiah 46:9-10 Daniel 4:34-35 Ask: Based on these passages, how would you explain the sovereignty of God in 1-2 sentences? Scripture is filled with passages like these that speak about the sovereignty of God. When we say that God is sovereign, we mean that he is completely free to do whatever he desires with all of his creation. Unlike us, nothing in the universe that can frustrate, limit or prevent God from accomplishing his purposes or fulfilling his plans. 1b. The Doctrine of Election Have group members read out the following passages: John 6:37-39, 6:44 Romans 8:28-30 Ephesians 1:3-6 Ask: What do these passages tell us about the sovereignty of God and the salvation of sinners? Scripture teaches that God is sovereign over the salvation– from start to finish– of all whom he chooses to save. Every person whom God has chosen (i.e. predestined or elected) for salvation will certainly be saved. Nothing in the universe can frustrate, limit or prevent God from accomplishing his purposes of salvation toward his elect people. This is what we commonly refer to as the doctrine of election. Ask: What questions, struggles or objections come to mind when considering the doctrine of election? The doctrine of election is an uncomfortable topic for many people. Despite its clear teaching in Scripture, it continues to be a truth that many are very reluctant to accept if they accept it at all. And it's not hard to understand why. If God is sovereign over my salvation, then isn't he violating my own freedom to choose for myself? Am I nothing more than a puppet under God's control? If it's all up to God, then why doesn't he choose to save everyone? How could he condemn people for not being chosen by him? Such questions and objections seem to come to us naturally. They force us to grapple with our understanding of the justice of God as well as the freedom and responsibility of man. Thankfully, such questions are addressed in Scripture and nowhere more clearly than in the main passage of our study. Read: Romans 9 2. Understanding the Text 2a. Romans 9:1-6 Ask: Why is Paul in "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" regarding the Israelites? Ask: Concerning the Israelites, why might it appear "as though the word of God has failed"? Paul is deeply saddened by the reality that many of his Jewish brethren– who share his history and heritage as Israelites– have rejected Jesus Christ and the gospel. They have rejected him even though God in his word has given the people of Israel more than enough to recognize and believe in Christ unto salvation. Therefore, given how so many of them have rejected Christ, one might conclude that God has simply failed to uphold his word to deliver the Israelites– his chosen people. 2b. Romans 9:6-13 Read: Genesis 21:8-13 Ask: How does Paul use the example of Abraham's two sons to show that God has indeed kept his word? Read: Genesis 25:21-23 and Malachi 1:1-5 (note that the Israelites are descendants of Jacob and the Edomites are descendants of Esau) Ask: How does Paul use the example of Esau and Jacob to show that God has kept his word? Ask: How does Paul explain why God chose to bless Jacob and his descendants but reject Esau and his descendants? Ask: Summarize Paul's reasoning for why it cannot be said that "the word of God has failed" concerning the Israelites. Upon closer examination of God's word, we see that his promise concerning the descendants of his chosen people have never applied to all descendants. Rather, based on God's purpose of election alone, only a select group of those descendants actually inherit the promise. For example, God's promise to Abraham and his descendants applied only to Isaac and not to Ishmael even though they were both his sons. Similarly, God's promise to Isaac and his descendants applied only to Jacob and not to Esau. Therefore it cannot be said that God's promise to Israel (i.e. Jacob) and the Israelites (i.e. Jacob's descendants) must apply to every Israelite. Rather, it applies only to a select group that has been elected by God. In other words, "it is not as though the word of God has failed", but that God has always been consistent in upholding his promise. 2c. Romans 9:14-18 Ask: Given the explanation for why God has upheld his word, why might people believe that God is being unjust? Read: Exodus 33:12-20 Ask: Why does Moses appeal to God's favor upon himself and the Israelites rather than, for example, to their abilities, experience, effort, worth or righteousness? Ask: Paul says that God's purpose of election "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (9:16). In accordance of his divine justice, what would God do if his election unto salvation did depend on an individual's will or exertion? Ask: How does God showing mercy to people not violate his justice? In other words, how is God's act to forgive sinners not a corruption of justice that requires sinners to be condemned? (Hint: see Romans 3:21-26) Read: Exodus 9:13-35 Ask: What does God accomplish by hardening Pharoah's heart rather than having him "cut off from the earth"? Ask: When Pharoah's heart is hardened, is he acting against his will or in accordance with his will? What does this tell us about how God hardens people's hearts? Ask: Did God treat Pharoah justly? Why or why not? 2d. Romans 9:19-29 Ask: Given the explanation for why God has upheld his word and is not acting unjustly, why might people believe God should not hold them responsible for their sins? Ask: How does Paul's illustration of the potter and the clay explain the relationship between humans and God? Ask: Based on v22-23, why does God choose to save some and not all as opposed to saving all or saving none? Read: Hosea 2, Isaiah 10:20-23, Isaiah 1 Ask: How do these passages show the glory of both God's mercy and God's wrath at the same time? 2e. Romans 9:30-33 Ask: How is the glory of both God's mercy and God's wrath shown in the hardening of the Israelites and the salvation of the Gentiles?
Main point summary
Why has God purposed for his righteousness to be obtained by unsuspecting Gentiles ahead of the Jewish people who possess every conceivable advantage of obtaining it first? Not because he is unfaithful to his promise, nor because he is unjust in electing whom to save or condemn, but because this is how the sovereign and free Creator desires to put the glories of both his mercy and his wrath on full display.
Romans 9
Romans 9:1-33
a I am speaking the truth in Christ—
I am speaking truthfully in Christ
I am not lying;
In other words, I am not speaking falsehood
my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
but my own conscience testifies to this truth in the Holy Spirit
that I have great sorrow
namely that I am deeply saddened
and unceasing anguish in my heart.
and that I have constant agony in my heart.
For b I could wish that I myself were c accursed
to the degree that I wish that I could be condemned under a curse
and cut off from Christ
and separated from fellowship with Christ
for the sake of my brothers, 1
in order to save my Jewish brethren unto Christ
my kinsmen d according to the flesh.
that is, those whom are related to me by blood and heritage.
They are e Israelites,
Because they are the people of Israel
and to them belong f the adoption,
and therefore they ought to all possess the adoption from God
g the glory,
and the glory of God
h the covenants,
and the covenants with God
i the giving of the law,
and the law given by God
j the worship,
and the worship of God
and k the promises.
and the promises of God
To them belong l the patriarchs,
and the forefathers of the faith
and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ,
and from that people group and family is the Messiah himself
m who is God over all, n blessed forever. Amen.
that is, he who is God above everything and forever to be blessed. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed.
Nevertheless, the reason they reject Christ is not because the word of God has failed.
For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
Because those who are descendants from the line of Israel (Jacob) belong to Israel (the chosen nation of God)
and not all are children of Abraham
Moreover, Abraham's children are not all counted as heirs of God's promises
o because they are his offspring,
even though he is their biological father
but p “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
but rather, it is written "Through Abraham's son Isaac shall his descendants become heirs."
This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God,
In other words, it is not the children related by blood who are counted as children of God,
but q the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
but it is the children of God's promise who are counted as children of God.
For this is what the promise said:
Because this is what God's promise actually says concerning Abraham:
r “About this time next year I will return,
" When I return around this time next year
and Sarah shall have a son.”
then Sarah will give birth to your son Isaac."
And not only so,
Moreover, he did not only state his promise here,
but s also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,
but when Rebekah conceived twins through Isaac
though they were not yet born
even though they were still in the womb
and had done nothing either good or bad—
and had no opportunity to do anything good or evil
in order that God’s purpose of election might continue,
nevertheless in order to continue fulfilling God's purpose of choosing people for himself
not because of works
not on the basis of their works
but because of t him who calls—
but on the basis of God who calls them to himself
she was told,
God promised Rebekah,
u “The older will serve the younger.”
"The older son Esau shall serve the younger son Jacob."
As it is written,
just as it is written by God:
v “Jacob I loved,
"I set my love on Jacob,
but Esau I hated.”
but I did not set my love on Esau."
What shall we say then?
Then, people may object by asking :
w Is there injustice on God’s part?
Is God then being unjust by choosing to love some and rejecting others?
By no means!
The answer: God is absolutely not being unjust!
For he says to Moses,
Because God declared to Moses,
x “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
"I will give mercy to those whom I choose to give mercy.
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
that is, I will give compassion to those whom I choose to give compassion."
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, 1
Therefore God's election is not based on man's will or effort,
but on God, who has mercy.
but instead it is based solely on God exercising his mercy.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,
Let me explain further: the Scriptures record God speaking of Pharaoh,
y “For this very purpose I have raised you up,
"I have intentionally raised you up in power and might
that I might show my power in you,
in order to show my own power in might over you
and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
with the result that my name (and not yours) would be praised and feared throughout the world."
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills,
Therefore God gives mercy to those whom he chooses to give mercy
and he hardens whomever he wills.
but hardens and does not give mercy to those whom he chooses to harden.
You will say to me then,
[Then] although people may continue to object by saying,
“Why does he still find fault?
"God should not hold us responsible for having hardened hearts of unbelief
For z who can resist his will?”
because he created us this way and no one can go against his will!"
But who are you, O man, a to answer back to God?
Yet they, as creaturely humans, do not have any right to talk back to God this way
b Will what is molded say to its molder,
just as the molded clay has no right to complain to its molder,
“Why have you made me like this?”
"It is your fault for making me this way."
c Has the potter no right over the clay,
Rather, just as the potter has every right over the clay
to make out of the same lump d one vessel for honorable use
in order to from one lump create a container for special purposes
and another for dishonorable use?
while on the other hand create another container for ordinary purposes
What if God, desiring to show his wrath
so too does God– because he desires to put his wrath on display
and to make known his power,
and let everyone witness his great might–
has endured with much patience e vessels of wrath
[ so too does he] therefore patiently endure the hostility of common creaturely containers marked for wrath
f prepared for destruction,
that is, containers destined for destruction.
in order to make known g the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,
in order to put his immeasurable wealth of glory on display for his special created containers marked for mercy
which he h has prepared beforehand for glory—
that is, containers predestined to receive and behold glory–
even us whom he i has called,
specifically, all of us whom he has called to himself
j not from the Jews only
that is, not only from the Jews
but also from the Gentiles?
but from both Jews and Gentiles.
As indeed he says in Hosea,
Just as God has promised in the book of Hosea,
k “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
"I will call people who were not special as 'my special people'
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
and I will call people who were not my beloved as 'my beloved'.
l “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
and wherever such people had once been known as 'not my special people'
there they will be called m ‘sons of the living God.’”
they will then be called as 'sons– children and heirs– of the living God'."
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
And just as Isaiah proclaims regarding Israel:
n “Though the number of the sons of Israel 1 be as the sand of the sea,
" Although the descendants of Israel shall be as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea
o only a remnant of them will be saved,
nevertheless only a remnant of them will be delivered
for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”
because the Lord will execute his judgment on the earth thoroughly and quickly.
And as Isaiah predicted,
And just as Isaiah prophesied,
p q “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
" Unless it pleases the Lord of armies to preserve us and our descendants
r we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
then we would have been completely wiped out in judgment like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah."
What shall we say, then?
Therefore this is what we must conclude:
s That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness
Although the Gentiles were not actively seeking a right-standing with God
have attained it,
nevertheless they have obtained it,
that is, t a righteousness that is by faith;
namely a right-standing with God through faith in him
but that Israel u who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness 1
while at the same time, although the Israelites tried to actively seek a right-standing with God
v did not succeed in reaching that law.
nevertheless they did not obtain it through trying to obey God's law.
Why did they fail to obtain it?
Because they did not pursue it by faith,
Because they did not seek it through faith
but as if it were based on works.
but sought it as though it could be obtained by their own effort.
They have stumbled over the w stumbling stone,
In other words, they have tripped over Christ, the foundational stone of stumbling
as it is written,
just as it was written,
x “Behold, I am laying in Zion y a stone of stumbling,
"See, I am placing in Zion a foundational stone of stumbling
and a rock of offense;
that is, a solid rock that will make people fall
z and whoever believes in him will not be a put to shame.”
with the result that everyone believing in him will not be ashamed."
There is a logical progression to the objections being raised, but rather than using the Progression relationship, I opted to use a -/+ relationship because I believe it better highlights the overarching idea that "God's word has not failed and God is not unjust, but rather God is putting his glory on full display".
Wrath is to be poured into vessels of wrath, while mercy is to be poured into vessels of mercy.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.