Romans 9 - Israel Saved By Faith

INTRODUCTION: Paul wanted his readers to know just how much he loved his brethren the Jews who had their ancestral identity in Jacob, as a nation chosen by God and called Israel. But the mercy and blessing by faith in Christ was not reserved only for those who are of Israel, but for Gentiles as well, because faith in Christ, not bloodline or works, is God's revealed plan for salvation of the soul of each believer. This chapter of Romans is in my own paraphrase, to some extent in an amplified style, prepared by examining several translations, and with some use of a Greek lexicon.

NOTE: Verses in the comments are from the 1769 King JamesBible.


A - PAUL HAD GREAT SORROW THAT NOT ALL ISRAEL IS SAVED

Romans 9 "1 I speak the truth in Christ, I an not lying, my conscience is clear before the Holy Spirit, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could desire even to be accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom belongs the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the temple service of God, and the promises; 5 all of which belonged to the patriarchs, and of whom in human ancestry Christ came, who is over all, forever to be praised as God."

COMMENTS: Paul came to a point in his letter where he was moved to let the believers at Rome know that his remarks thus far were not meant to condemn those children of Israel who had not yet come to Christ in faith. Quite the contrary, as he expressed in vivid terms with an oath by the Holy Spirit; because of his sorrow of heart, he would be willing to be accursed from Christ if that could bring salvation to all of his fellow Israelites. This was not boastful on his part, but a genuine desire to see God's nation fully receive the benefits prepared for them. The LORD had set Israel apart for adoption, glory, and the covenants. They were given the law, the temple service of God, and the promises. All of these things belonged to the patriarchs. And the greatest blessing is that in human ancestry Christ came from the patriarchs, and he is over all, forever to be praised as God.

God had to judge Israel for the way they had abandoned his blessings of purpose in them even after they had possessed the Promised Land. Zechariah 7 "9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. 11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12 Yea, they made their hearts [as] an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore it is come to pass, [that] as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts: 14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate."

But the LORD will never completely abandoned his love for Israel, as even our Lord Jesus in his humanity expressed sorrow for those of Israel who many times vigorously rejected him. Luke 13 "34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen [doth gather] her brood under [her] wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until [the time] come when ye shall say, Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord."


B - THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE ARE THE TRUE OFFSPRING OF GOD

Romans 9 "6 It is not that the word of God is ineffective. For they are not all Israel, which are in the bloodline of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the ancestors of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall God's offspring be called. 8 That is, they which are the children of natural ancestry, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the offspring. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son."

COMMENTS: The wanderings of Israel away from the LORD in rebellion could in no way make the Word of God ineffective. The true descendents of Israel were given their position of salvation through a promise, not through natural ancestry. The LORD made a promise to Abram when he and Sarai both believed they were too old to have a child together. Genesis 17 "15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah [shall] her name [be]. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be [a mother] of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall [a child] be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham."

Paul used truth that can be found in Genesis to show that not all of the natural descendents of Abraham became heirs to the special blessing he received from God. Ishmael had been born some fourteen years before Isaac by Abraham through Hagar. What some had interpreted to be God's plan to establish a special nation of people through genealogical ancestry who alone would be called to an eternal heritage, was not the full plan. The birth of Isaac by a woman who was past the normal age of childbearing was a demonstration of God's divine power to fulfill his promise under conditions considered impossible by human reasoning. Isaac's twin sons later gave further example of how God was the one to determine those who would become his eternal heirs.


C - GOD CHANGED JACOB'S NAME TO ISRAEL

Romans 9 "10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls; 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

COMMENTS: Paul went to the next step in the revered line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to show how even Fraternal twins in the womb of Rebecca were distinctly prepared by God for his purpose by his predetermined choice, not because of any good or evil that either of them had done before birth. So, based on whom God calls, not on works, God told Rebecca the elder son would serve the younger. Genesis 25 "21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she [was] barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If [it be] so, why [am] I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations [are] in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and [the one] people shall be stronger than [the other] people; and the elder shall serve the younger."

Paul again used a scripture reference wherein the LORD spoke of his love for Jacob whom he later renamed Israel, and his rejection of Esau who was the father of the Edomites. The separation was clearly demonstrated over many centuries with the Edomites never being able to regain blessings that were given to the Israelites. Malachi 1 "2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? [Was] not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, 3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. 4 Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever."


D - MERCY AND COMPASSION ARE BY THE WILL OF GOD

Romans 9 "14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of those who try by their own will, nor of those who run the race of life superbly, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I elevated your position, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardens."

COMMENTS: If we apply our own reasoning to these things, would we say that God is not being righteous? Paul is very firm in declaring this would be an utterly ridiculous conclusion if we think that could ever be the case with the LORD! There is much scripture to agree with what Paul has said. Proverbs 21 "30 [There is] no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD." Even when Israel had been removed from the Promised Land by their enemies, Daniel knew the wisdom and power of the LORD was unquestionable. Daniel 4 "35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"

The True and Living God had indeed told Moses, who will always be respected by the Jews as God's chosen man who led them out of bondage in Egypt, the truth that Paul wanted to emphasize. Exodus 33 "19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." Paul said it is clear that no person earns the heritage of God, but it is the choice of God who shows mercy to whom he will. And the LORD will elevate and harden the heart of those he chooses, so his power in them will actually cause his name to be declared throughout all the earth. Exodus 9 "14 For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that [there is] none like me in all the earth. 15 For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. 16 And in very deed for this [cause] have I raised thee up, for to shew [in] thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." Therefore Paul said, with other scripture as further evidence, God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens.


E - THE POTTER HAS UNLIMITED POWER OVER THE CLAY

Romans 9 "19 You then will say to me, Why does he still find fault? For who has resisted his will? 20 No, but you being just a man, who are you to talk back against the will of God? Shall the thing formed say to the one who formed it, Why have you made me this way? 21 Doesn't the potter have power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel for honor, and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with abundant patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had beforehand prepared for glory, 24 Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As he says also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and call her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God."

COMMENTS: Paul knew that those who do not fear God will continually argue about God's sovereign will, and especially if they are condemned of sin. So Paul provided a picturesque metaphor about the potter and his clay to portray how ridiculous it is for mere man to question the will of God. God has created all of mankind and he has judged some of them as guilty of sin and condemns them to be separated in death, and others he has chosen for eternal life. Paul said we should consider that God can also use his long term patience before bringing final judgment to those predetermined to suffer his power and wrath, that he might more fully make known the riches of his glory on those of both Jews and Gentiles that he had prepared in advance to receive his mercy and love. Paul drew attention to the writing of a prophet to add veracity to what he was saying, and his choice of wording carries the sense contained in more than one passage from that prophet. Hosea 1 "10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, [that] in the place where it was said unto them, Ye [are] not my people, [there] it shall be said unto them, [Ye are] the sons of the living God." Many Gentiles have also become heirs with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel through the mercy of the LORD. Hosea 2 "23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to [them which were] not my people, Thou [art] my people; and they shall say, [Thou art] my God."


F - THE STUMBLING STONE AND ROCK OF OFFENCE

Romans 9 "27 Isaiah also cried out concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will complete his decreed word, and execute it in righteousness: because the Lord will quickly finish it upon the earth. 29 And as Isaiah said before, Except the Lord Almighty had left us a seed, we would have been like Sodom, and like Gomorrah. 30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who did not observe righteousness, have attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which sought after the law of righteousness, has not attained righteousness through the law. 32 Why is that so? Because they did not seek it by faith, belief, and trust; but by trying to earn it with good works under the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believes in him shall not be ashamed."

COMMENTS: The two references used by Paul from Isaiah related to the waning days of the southern kingdom as they slipped further away from the LORD. But Isaiah also wrote about the stumbling stone for those who don't accept God by faith. Isaiah 8 "13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." And Jesus demonstrated in Jerusalem that he could trap (a gin) and snare the religious leaders by their misunderstanding and misapplication of scripture.

Jesus spoke a parable about tenants (husbandmen) who killed the only son of the powerful owner of the vineyard, and then he quoted from Psalm 118 verse 22 to speak of the blessing that would be taken from many Jews for unbelief, and given to others. Mark 12 "9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10 And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: 11 This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?"

After the resurrection of Christ, Peter and John boldly spoke of the "cornerstone" when they were brought before Jewish leaders. Acts 4 "10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, [even] by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." This is the enduring message Paul was giving in his letter to believers at Rome.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

LORD, I want to remember how Paul described the special blessing that belonged to the children of Israel through the patriarchs: they were given adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the temple service of God, and the promises. Then, in human ancestry Christ came through the patriarchs, and he is over all, forever to be praised as God! LORD, you provided Isaac as a very special child through your promise when Sarah was past the age of normal conception and childbirth. Abraham had become the father of Ishmael some years earlier through Hagar's normal conception and birth, but by faith he believed your promise for Isaac in spite of his amazement about the process.

I thank you, LORD, that Paul continued to show that it was then your choice to bless Jacob as the younger of the twins while they were still in Rebecca's womb. This was another demonstration of your purpose, LORD, according to election, not of works, but for those you call to yourself. And Paul's reference to Moses in the period before the Israelites entered the Promised Land shows that this was already your design, LORD, that you will have mercy on whom you will have mercy, and you will have compassion on whom you will have compassion. Therefore, being chosen by God is not of those who try either by their own will, or of those who run the race of life superbly, but of the mercy of the LORD.

The metaphor of the potter and the clay provides a way to remember and meditate on the vast difference between the God of all creation, and all descendents of Adam as he was made from the very "dust of the earth." How ridiculous it would be for an inanimate lump of clay to have any reaction at all to a living person who formed it into a finished vessel. How then, LORD, could anyone who is totally dependent upon you for the breath of life, question your righteousness in convicting sinners?

As Paul closed this chapter, he used reference to the prophet Isaiah to show, though Israel was your chosen nation, except for your mercy and grace to a remnant from them, they would have been utterly destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. I thank you, LORD, that as a Gentile I have received your righteousness by faith in Christ, while for many Jews, Christ has been that stumbling stone and rock of offense. They try to obtain righteousness through keeping the law rather than by faith in Christ. LORD, I praise you that you chose me with absolutely no merit in the things I do, but by your predetermined grace to me. So my faith is in my Cornerstone, the Lord Christ Jesus. Hallelujah, amen!

Published 2 June, revisions 12 June 2016