Romans 9 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of Romans 9)
9:1 I say 1 the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

(1) The third part of this epistle, which goes to the twelfth chapter, in which Paul ascends to the higher causes of faith: and first of all, because he purposed to speak much of the casting off of the Jews, he uses a declaration, saying by a double or triple oath, and by witnessing of his great desire towards their salvation, his singular love towards them, and in addition granting to them all their privileges.

9:3 For I could wish that myself were a accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the b flesh:

(a) The apostle loved his brethren so completely that if it had been possible he would have been ready to have redeemed the castaways of the Israelites with the loss of his own soul forever: for this word "accursed" signifies as much in this place.
(b) Being brethren by flesh, as from one nation and country.

9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom [pertaineth] the adoption, and the c glory, and the d covenants, and the giving of the e law, and the f service [of God], and the g promises;

(c) The ark of the covenant, which was a token of God's presence.
(d) The tables of the covenant, and this is spoken by the figure of speech metonymy.
(e) Of the judicial law.
(f) The ceremonial law.
(g) Which were made to Abraham and to his posterity.

9:5 Whose [are] the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ [came], 2 who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

(2) Or, "who is God over all, blessed for ever." A most manifest testimony of the Godhead and divinity of Christ.

9:6 3 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they [are] not all h Israel, which are of Israel:

(3) He enters into the handling of predestination, by means of presenting an objection: How may it be that Israel is cast off, and that in addition we must also make the covenant which God made with Abraham and his seed, frustrated and void? He answers therefore that God's word is true, although Israel is cast off: for the election of the people of Israel is so general and common, that nonetheless the same God chooses by his secret council those as it pleases him. So then this is the proposition and state of this treatise: the grace of salvation is offered generally in such a way, that in spite of how it is offered, the efficacy of it pertains only to the elect.
(h) Israel in the first place, is taken for Jacob: and in the second, for the Israelites.

9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they] all children: 4 but, In i Isaac shall thy seed be called.

(4) The first proof is taken from the example of Abraham's own house, in which Isaac only was considered the son, and that by God's ordinance: although Ishmael also was born of Abraham, and circumcised before Isaac.
(i) Isaac will be your true and natural son, and therefore heir of the blessing.

9:8 5 That is, They which are the children of the k flesh, these [are] not the children of God: but the children of the l promise are counted for the seed.

(5) A general application of the former proof or example.
(k) Who are born of Abraham by the course of nature.
(l) Who are born by virtue of the promise.

9:9 6 For this [is] the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.

(6) A reason of that application: because Isaac was born by the power of the promise, and therefore he was not chosen, no, he was not at all, except by the free will of God: by which it follows that the promise is the fountain of predestination, and not the flesh, from which promise the particular election proceeds, that is, that the elect are born elect, and not that they are first born, and then after elected, by God who predestinates.

9:10 7 And not only [this]; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, [even] by our father Isaac;

(7) Another strong and persuasive proof taken from the example of Esau and Jacob, who were both born of the same Isaac, who was the son of promise of one mother, and were born at the same time, and not at different times as Ishmael and Isaac were: and yet nonetheless, as Esau was cast off, only Jacob was chosen: and that before their birth, that neither any goodness of Jacob's might be thought to be the cause of his election, neither any wickedness of Esau to be the cause of his casting away.

9:11 (For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the m purpose of God according to election might 8 stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

(m) God's decree which proceeds from only his good will, by which it pleases him to choose one, and refuse the other. (8) Paul does not say, "might be made", but "being made might remain". Therefore they are deceived who make foreseen faith the cause of election, and foreknown infidelity the cause of reprobation.

9:12 9 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

(9) He proves the casting away of Esau in that he was made servant to his brother: and proves the choosing of Jacob in that he was made lord of his brother, although his brother was the first begotten. And in order that no man might take what God had said, and refer it to external things, the apostle shows out of Malachi, who is a good interpreter of Moses, that the servitude of Esau was joined with the hatred of God, and the lordship of Jacob with the love of God.

9:14 10 What shall we say then? [Is there] n unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

(10) The first objection: if God loves or hates without any consideration of worthiness or unworthiness, then is he unjust, because he may love those who are unworthy, and hate those who are worthy? The apostle detests this blasphemy, and afterward responds to it in depth, point by point.
(n) Man knows no other causes of love or hatred, but those that are in the persons, and thereupon this objection arises.

9:15 11 For he saith to Moses, I will o have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have p compassion on whom I will have compassion.

(11) He answers first with regard to those who are chosen to salvation, in the choosing of whom he denies that God may seem unjust, although he chooses and predestinates to salvation those that are not yet born, without any respect of worthiness: because he does not bring the chosen to the appointed end except by the means of his mercy, which is a cause discussed under predestination. Now mercy presupposes misery, and again, misery presupposes sin or voluntary corruption of mankind, and corruption presupposes a pure and perfect creation. Moreover, mercy is shown by her degrees: that is, by calling, by faith, by justification and sanctification, so that at length we come to glorification, as the apostle will show afterwards. Now all these things orderly following the purpose of God, do clearly prove that he can by no means seem unjust in loving and saving his.
(o) I will be merciful and favourable to whom I wish to be favourable.
(p) I will have compassion on whoever I wish to have compassion.

9:16 12 So then [it is] not of him that q willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

(12) The conclusion of the answer: therefore God is not unjust in choosing and saving from his free goodness, such as it pleases him: as he also answered Moses when he prayed for all of the people.
(q) By "will" he means the thought and endeavour of heart, and by "running", good works, to neither of which he gives the praise, but only to the mercy of God.

9:17 13 For the r scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I s raised thee up, that I might 14 shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

(13) Now he answers concerning the reprobate, or those whom God hates who are not yet born, and has appointed to destruction, without any respect of unworthiness. And first of all he proves this to be true, by alleging the testimony of God himself concerning Pharaoh, whom he stirred up to this purpose, that he might be glorified in Pharaoh's hardening and just punishing.
(r) God speaks unto Pharaoh in the scripture, or, the scripture in talking about God, in this way talks to Pharaoh.
(s) Brought you into this world.
(14) Secondly, he brings the goal of God's counsel, to show that there is no unrighteousness in him. Now the main goal is not properly and simply the destruction of the wicked, but God's glory which appears in their rightful punishment.

9:18 15 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he t will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth.

(15) A conclusion of the full answer to the first objection: therefore seeing that God does not save those whom he freely chose according to his good will and pleasure, but by justifying and sanctifying them by his grace, his counsels in saving them cannot seem unjust. And again, there is not injustice in the everlasting counsel of God, with regard to the destruction of those whom he lifts to destroy, because he hardens before he destroys: therefore the third answer for the maintenance of God's justice in the everlasting counsel of reprobation, consists in this word "hardening": which nonetheless he concealed in the former verse, because the history of Pharaoh was well known. But the force of the word is great, for hardening, which is set against "mercy", presupposes the same things that mercy did, that is, a voluntary corruption, in which the reprobate are hardened: and again, corruption presupposes a perfect state of creation. Moreover, this hardening also is voluntary, for God hardens in such a way, being offended with corruption, that he uses their own will whom he hardens, for the executing of that judgment. Then follow the fruits of hardening, that is, unbelief and sin, which are the true and proper causes of the condemnation of the reprobate. Why does he then appoint to destruction? Because he wishes: why does he harden? Because they are corrupt: why does he condemn? Because they are sinners. Where then is unrighteousness? Nay, if he would destroy all after this manner, to whom would he do injury?
(t) Whom it pleased him to appoint, to show his favour upon.

9:19 16 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

(16) Another objection, but only for the reprobate, rising upon the former answer. If God appoints to everlasting destruction, such as he wishes, and if that which he has decreed cannot be hindered nor withstood, how does he justly condemn those who perish by his will?

9:20 17 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? 18 Shall the thing u formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?

(17) The apostle does not answer that it is not God's will, or that God does not either reject or elect according to his pleasure, which thing the wicked call blasphemy, but he rather grants his adversary both the antecedents, that is, that it is God's will, and that is must of necessity so happen, yet he denies that God is therefore to be thought an unjust avenger of the wicked: for seeing that it appears by manifest proof that this is the will of God, and his doing, what impudency is it for man, who is but dust and ashes, to dispute with God, and as it were to call him into judgment? Now if any man say that the doubt is not so dissolved and answered, I answer, that there is no surer demonstration in any matter, because it is grounded upon this principle, that the will of God is the rule of righteousness.
(18) An amplification of the former answer, taken from a comparison, by which it also appears that God's determinate counsel is set by Paul as the highest of all causes: so that it depends not in any way on the second causes, but rather shapes and directs them.
(u) This similitude agrees very properly to the first creation of mankind.

9:21 19 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one 20 vessel unto x honour, and another unto 21 dishonour?

(19) Alluding to the creation of Adam, he compares mankind not yet made (but who are in the creators mind) to a lump of clay: who afterwards God made, and daily makes, according as he purposed from everlasting, both such as should be elect, and such as should be reprobate, as also this word "make" declares.
(20) Whereas in the objection propounded, mention was only made of vessels to dishonour, yet he speaks of the others also in this answer, because he proves the Creator to be just in either of them.
(x) To honest uses.
(21) Seeing then, that in the name of dishonour the shame of everlasting death is signified, those agree with Paul, who say that some are made by God for most just destruction: and they that are offended with this kind of speech betray their own folly.

9:22 22 [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the y vessels of wrath fitted to 23 destruction:

(22) The second answer is this, that God, moreover and besides that he justly decrees whatever he decrees, uses that moderation in executing his decrees, as is declared his singular mercifulness even in the reprobate, in that he endures them a long time, and permits them to enjoy many and singular benefits, until at length he justly condemns them: and that to good end and purpose, that is, to show himself to be an enemy and avenger of wickedness, that it may appear what power he has by these severe judgments, and finally by comparison of contraries to set forth indeed, how great his mercy is towards the elect.
(y) By vessels, the Hebrews understand all types of instruments.
(23) Therefore again, we may say with Paul, that some men are made by God the creator for destruction.

9:23 And that he might make known the z riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

(z) The unmeasurable and marvellous greatness.

9:24 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the a Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

(24) Having established the doctrine of the eternal predestination of God on both parts, that is, on the part of the reprobate as well as of the elect, he comes now to show its use, teaching us that we ought not to seek its testimony in the secret counsel of God, but by the calling which is made manifest, and set forth in the Church, propounding to us the example of the Jews and Gentiles, that the doctrine may be better perceived.
(a) He does not say that each and every one of the Jews are called, but some of the Jews, and some of the Gentiles.

9:25 25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

(25) Our vocation or calling is free, and of grace, even as our predestination is: and therefore there is no reason why either our own unworthiness, or the unworthiness of our ancestors should cause us to think that we are not the elect and chosen of God, if we are called by him, and so embrace through faith the salvation that is offered us.

9:27 26 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

(26) Contrary to this, neither any outward general calling, neither any worthiness of our ancestors, is a sufficient witness of election, unless by faith and belief we answer God's calling: which thing came to pass in the Jews, as the Lord had foretold.

9:28 For he will finish the work, and cut [it] b short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

(b) God chooses and goes about to reduce the unkind and unthankful people to a very small number.

9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of c Sabaoth had left us a d seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

(c) Armies, by which word the greatest power that exists is attributed to God.
(d) Even as very few.

9:30 27 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed e not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

(27) The declaration and manifestation of our election is our calling apprehended by faith, as it came to pass in the Gentiles.
(e) So then, the Gentiles had no works to prepare and procure God's mercy before hand: and that the Gentiles attained to that which they did not seek, the mercy of God is to be thanked for it: and in that the Jews did not attain that which they sought after, they can only thank themselves, because they did not seek for it in the proper way.

9:31 28 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

(28) The pride of men is the reason that they reject their calling, so that the cause of their damnation need not to be sought for in any other place but themselves.

9:32 Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by faith, but as it were by the s works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

(s) Seeking to attain righteousness, they followed the law of righteousness.