Elmore Church of Christ
Note: The class will begin by reading Romans 9 in its entirety and, then, this submission will be read following by class discussion.
Many in the Jewish nation had rejected Paul’s gospel by the time the Epistle of Romans was written and he was heartbroken over the lost condition of his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen. Paul is quick in underscoring the great privileges the Israelite nation had been given, yet would not allow the Jewish rejection of the gospel to reflect on the truthfulness of God’s promises through Old Testament prophecies. Those who were the true descendants of the promise of the inheritance of imputed righteousness (resulting in fellowship with God) were not the physical descendants of Abraham, but the children of promise. Hence, there was an Israel (spiritual) within Israel (physical). The children of promise (illustrated by Isaac) are those in contrast to Ishmael who was born according to the flesh (or, through normal human power and means). Isaac was born through the promise of God (cp. Galatians 4:11-21). Isaac was not born through human power or ability to bring his conception about for both Abraham and Sarah were sexually dead before God intervened to empower them (cp. Rom.4; Hebrews 11:11). Christians (Abraham’s true children of promise) are associated with Isaac and called “children of promise” (cp. Gal.4:28) because their spiritual birth (that which they were powerless to acquire or cause by their own power or works of merit) was brought about by the intervention of God in sending Christ to save them by His death, burial, and resurrection.
In answer to the Jewish complaint that God’s promises owed the physical Israelite the Messianic blessings, Paul shows that same Jewish objectors would not agree that the Ishmaelites (descendants of Abram and Hagar) or Edomites (descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Rebekah) were entitled to the same Messianic blessings even through both groups came from the body of Abraham.
Having destroyed the Jewish argument that physical tie to Abraham entitled them to the blessing of the Messiah, Paul moves to the subject of the sovereignty of God in the selection of Jacob and rejection of Esau regarding which would be the line through which His Son would come to the world. God’s sovereign selection of Jacob and rejection of Esau in this regard was not based on order of birth or works of merit, because God made His choice based on His sovereignty before the boys were born and before either had done good or evil. Why did God choose to make this choice before they were born or before they had done any good or evil? Paul explains, “. . .so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls . . .” (9:8b). God’s choice before the sons were born was an illustration of the nature of His call to the lost Jewish world and the lost Gentile world. The true gospel call is a call of grace—one not based on the merit of mankind’s works or man’s ability to earn any part of his salvation. Thus, to illustrate the nature of His call of grace through the gospel (cp. 2 Thess.2:13, 14), God chose Jacob and rejected Esau before they had done any good or evil in order to show that the gospel of grace would not stand on man’s works, but of Him who calls. Considering the call of the gospel, it is the message that Christ Jesus accomplished what man cannot accomplish by his works. To misunderstand this point is to believe a gospel foreign to the New Testament (cp. Rom.11:6; Gal.1:6ff).
Paul continues with two more Old Testament characters (Moses and Pharaoh) to illustrate that God had the sovereign right to have “. . . mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (9:18). Paul prefaces his teaching on the hardening of Pharaoh and the mercy shown to Moses by writing, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (9:16). This statement is, yet, another illustration of the gospel of grace that man does not create in his wisdom or a salvation he does not earn by his running (works).
Per Paul’s illustration, Moses was shown compassion in being permitted to see a manifestation of God’s back. No one else was shown such an act of compassion, as was Moses. Paul is using the compassion shown Moses to illustrate the compassion He has shown to a certain group (Christians) who He calls by the gospel of grace. Paul writes, “And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles” (Rm.9:23, 24). Conversely, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is an illustration of the hardening of the hearts of a different group (those who reject Christ’s gospel of grace). By A.D. 56, the call of the gospel had drawn by God’s sovereignty a remnant of the Jewish nation and also those of similar broken heart from the Gentile nations. The very nature of the gospel call (a call of grace) had hardened some and called some—as it does today and until the end of time.
God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. God extended to Moses an act of compassion, but hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Both illustrations underscore that the gospel (God’s calling power) had one of two impacts—calling or hardening.
The potter making one vessel for honor and one for common use (cp. Jeremiah 18) is, yet, another illustration of God’s sovereign impact on the hearts of lost mankind by the call of the gospel of grace.
God’s calling those not His people His people (cp. Hosea 1:10ff) and referring to the Old Testament prophecy of only a remnant of the Israelite nation being saved (cp. Isaiah 10:22ff; 1:9ff) were in process of fulfillment because of the impact of the preaching of the message of the gospel of grace which was covering the earth during the ministry of Paul and his fellow Apostles. Paul confirms that the call of the gospel had resulted in the calling of the Gentiles who had a heart to believe and a remnant of the Jewish nation. He wrote, “. . . for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly” (Rm.9:28). The execution or the spreading of God’s word resulted in a calling of Gentiles and a remnant of the Jewish nation. On this point, Paul wrote:
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Why did some Gentiles become Christians? It was because they responded to the message of grace in faith—meaning they added nothing to the work of Christ, but only trusted the work of Christ.
Why did many Jews fail to come to Christ when they heard the message and call of grace? Paul explains, “Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works” (Rm.9:32b).