SUMMARY.--Paul's Deep Sympathy for His Nation. God's Promise to the Jewish Race not Void. The Argument that it is not. The Promise is not to the Seed According to the Flesh, but a Spiritual Seed. God has a Right to Choose what Race He Will. As the Potter has the Right to Choose what Race He Will. As the Potter has the Right to Shape His Clay, so God can Exalt or Reject a Race. The Acceptance of the Gentiles and the Rejection of the Jews Foretold. A Remnant of Israel Saved.
To understand the reasoning of this chapter, the reader must keep in mind the aim of the apostle. He had in the beginning of this letter (Rom. 1:16, 17) shown that the gospel was God's power of salvation . . . "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." But the Jews as a nation had rejected Christ, and God had rejected them. They were soon to be destroyed as a people and their land taken away. But the Jew fell back on the promises made to Abraham. Has God broken his promises? If Christ was the true Messiah, and the Jewish nation rejected, he held that the promise was made void. To answer their objection Paul shows (1) that the promise was not to all the fleshly seed of Abraham, but to the seed according to the promise; and (2) that God, in his sovereignty, has the right to choose a race or to pass it by at his will. The subject of individual and personal election is not in the mind of the apostle, but of the election of the Jews to be the chosen people, their rejection afterwards, and the choice of the Gentiles. Isaac, Esau and Jacob are the representatives of races.
1-5. I say the truth in Christ. This affirmation is made so solemn because the Jews charged Paul with having forsaken his race. He speaks as in the presence of Christ, with a conscience enlightened by the Holy Spirit. 2. That I have great heaviness, etc. Not so much that his countrymen are estranged from him, as that they were without the blessing of Christ. 3. For I could wish myself accursed from Christ. He could wish this, if that would avail anything, to save his Jewish brethren. Accursed. "Anathema," in the Revision. Rejected from Christ and lost. My brethren. His Jewish brethren, those of the same Jewish stock as himself. 4. Who are Israelites. He now enumerates some of the glories of the Jewish race. Jacob, their ancestor, had been called Israel (Gen. 32:28) by the angel. This means a Prince with God, and this proud title was borne by his descendants. Whose is the adoption. Six high privileges of the chosen people are named in the 4th and 5th verses. They were adopted as the chosen people (Deut. 7:6). And the glory. The presence of the ark of God and the glory of the Divine Presence (1 Sam. 4:21). The covenants. The covenants made with Abraham and at Sinai. The giving of the law. The law of Moses given to the children of Israel. And the service of God. The worship of the tabernacle and temple. And the promises. Especially the blessed promise of Christ. 5. Whose are the fathers. The patriarchs and prophets. Of whom . . . Christ came. Greatest of all, Christ, in his fleshly nature, was of their race, of the tribe of Judah, and of the seed of David. Who is over all. See Matt. 28:18. He is our King and our Judge. God blessed forever. More than man; Divine.
6-9. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. The Jew might reply, "Why, then, if Israel had such privileges, covenants and promises, is the nation rejected? Has God, if Jesus is really the Christ, made his word of none effect?" The apostle in the rest of the chapter answers this objection. The first point is that there is a wider, greater Israel than that of the flesh. Those of Israel are not all Israel. There is an Israel according to the promise as well as according to the flesh. 7. Neither because they are Abraham's seed are they all children. Abraham had other children besides Isaac, notably Ishmael, but none of these belonged to the chosen people, for it was said (Gen. 21:12), In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8. That is, not the children of the flesh, etc. Since Ishmael, born according to natural laws, was not of the chosen race, but Isaac, the child of promise, born contrary to natural law, because the chosen people, it follows that the children of God are not the children of the flesh, the mere fleshly descendants of Abraham, but the children of the promise; those who are of the seed according to the conditions of the promise. This argument is a reply to those who based all upon their fleshly relation to Abraham: "We have Abraham to our Father" (Matt. 3:9). In order to show this more fully Paul recalls the incidents recorded in Gen. 18:10-14. 9. This is the word of promise. This promise was made when Sarah was far beyond the natural age of bearing children, and when Abraham was an old man. So the chosen seed are children of promise.
10-13. And not only this. The first argument is that the true seed are children of the promise, a spiritual seed rather than of the flesh. The second argument, now begun, is that God has the right to reject what nation he will, including the Jews, and to choose other races if he will. This is shown by facts from history. He did exercise the right of choice when he chose Jacob as the chosen nation, instead of Esau. The facts are recited to show this. 11. For the children. The children, yet unborn, were both Isaac's seed according to the flesh; hence, according to the flesh, of the promised seed, and both equally without works, neither having done good nor evil. That the purpose of God according to election might stand. That it might stand forth that he made the choice of his own will, freely. Of his own will he chose Jacob, yet unborn, to become the head of the chosen race, rather than Esau. Note that this election was not to eternal salvation, but to become the head of a people. As Moses, Samuel, and John the Baptist were raised up for a great work of God, so was Jacob. 12. It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. See Gen. 25:23. It was said to Rebecca, "Two nations are in thy womb, . . . one people shall be stronger than the other, and the elder (people) shall serve the younger" Esau never served Jacob, but the Edomites, descended from Jacob, served the Israelites. The election here is that of a race. 13. As it is written. In Mal. 1:2, 3. The language of Malachi, in its connection, shows that this is spoken of the two races. Verse 3 says, "I hated Esau and laid waste his mountains and his heritage." This was not true of Esau as a person, but was true of his descendants. One race was loved and the other race hated. God has then asserted his right to freely choose or to reject races. There is not the slightest hint of electing some persons to eternal salvation and others to damnation.
14-18. Is there unrighteousness with God? Does not this liberty of God, in his election of races, do violence to his justice? Is it not unjust that God should choose one nation and reject another? The answer to this is now given. Paul shows that the Scriptures recognize this liberty, and these Scriptures, reverenced by the Jewish objector to whom he is writing, would not assign injustice to God. The argument is wholly scriptural. 15. I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. This is in Exod. 33:19, and is in answer to a request of Moses for a high privilege. The Lord grants it, not because he merits it, but of grace, because he "will be gracious to whom he willeth, and will have mercy where he will." The passage, as applied by Paul, asserts that God favors nations according to his pleasure. He exercises free choice. 16. So then it is not of him that willeth. When God is gracious, it is not because a human will (him that willeth), or a human work (him that runneth) lays him under obligation, and forces him to give, but the gift is of him, due to his mercy, which he has the right to bestow where he will. Isaac willed to bestow the blessing on Esau, and the latter run to obtain the venison (Gen. 27:5), but Jacob had been chosen to become the founder of the chosen people, and received the blessing, which promised that he should be the father of a great nation. 17. The Scripture saith to Pharaoh. Exod. 9:16. It is not said that Pharaoh was born for, but was raised to the throne for a particular purpose. That purpose was that I might shew my power in thee. It is not said that God raised him up to destroy him. His power might have been shown by Pharaoh yielding to his power. Pharaoh's conduct made it necessary to abase him. Here, again, the election is not of an individual to destruction, but of a man to be a king for a particular purpose. The destruction came upon him because, in that position, he resisted God. 18. Therefore hath he mercy. Verse 15 has shown that he hath mercy according to his own sense of right, not according to any human code. The case of Pharaoh shows, in addition, that whom he will, he hardeneth. "What must not be forgotten, and what appears distinctly, from the whole narrative in Exodus, is that Pharaoh's hardening was at first his own act. Five times it is said of him that he himself hardened, or made heavy his heart (Exod. 7:13; 7:22; 8:15; 8:32; 9:7), before the time when it is at last said that God hardened him (Exod. 9:12), and even after that it is said that he hardened himself (Exod. 9:34). Thus he at first closed his own heart to God's appeals; grew harder by stubborn resistance under God's judgments, until at last God, as a punishment for his obstinate rejection of right, gave him over to his mad folly and took away his judgment."--Godet. At first Pharaoh hardened his own heart; God's judgments only made it harder, and then God "gave him over." God only made harder, by his judgments and by leaving him to his folly, one who had already hardened his own heart. That he was given over to madness is shown in the record. Even his magician said, "This is the finger of God" (Exod. 8:19). He himself once said, "I have sinned; the Lord is righteous" (Exod. 9:27). Had he not hardened himself again, the result would have been different. Then God gave him up to his own folly, "to hardness of heart and reprobacy of mind." The Jews approved of all this in the case of Pharaoh, but held that God could never abandon them on account of their sinful course. Paul's argument is, that if they, the favored people, should pursue Pharaoh's course, they might experience Pharaoh's fate. They, also, hardening themselves, might be "delivered over to hardness," for God is not limited by race, or by any limitation, but hardens whom he wills. He wills to harden those who harden themselves. I have dwelt upon this passage at greater length than usual because it is so little understood. Godet well says that in this whole passage Paul is not writing theology, but answering the arrogant pretensions of Jewish Pharisaism, and hence he asserts the Divine liberty. Had he been replying to those who have exaggerated this liberty into a purely arbitrary and tyrannical will, he would have brought out the opposite side of truth.
19-24. Who withstandeth his will? He now meets another objection of the Jewish adversary. If God's will is paramount, why should he find fault, for no one nation can withstand his will. If God hardens, the nation that is hardened only submits to him. Paul does not stop to show that this objection is far-fetched, and illogical, but in substance says: "Let that be granted. Then what right has the Jewish nation to object? It is nothing but a lump of clay in the hands of the potter." 20. Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall men charge God with injustice? We have no right to strive with our Maker. He has the right to declare his own conditions upon which he will have mercy. 21. Hath not right over the clay? So God, as far as right is involved, has the right to make of his creatures what he will. It is not said that we are as clay in the potter's hands, but that God has the right over us that the potter has over his clay. One lump the potter can use for a splendid vase; another for a vessel for base uses. 22. What if God. Now if God, in the exercise of his undoubted right, has done something like this, in his dealings with the Jew and Gentile. Willing to show his wrath. Though provoked to visit punishment on the Jewish nation for its sin in rejecting Christ, and thus to demonstrate his power, yet thus far he has endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath. The unbelieving Jewish nation, so sinful before God, yet long endured, is meant. God, in the exercise of his sovereign will, has thus far deferred the exhibition of his wrath in its destruction. This verse began with a question. It implies, If God does all this, where is the fault? 23. And that he might make known. "The vessels of mercy" are both Gentile and Jewish believers. What if God endured vessels fitted for destruction (verse 22), was there wrong in this? What if he thus made known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, was there wrong in this? Which he had afore prepared unto glory. The preparation referred to is not that of individuals for eternal life, but the preparation made was to save the Gentiles as well as Jews. The next verse shows what is meant. 24. Even us whom he hath called. He "endured the vessels of wrath" that he might make known his mercy in calling both Jews and Gentiles. The destruction of the Jewish nation, predicted by the Savior in Matt. 24, was delayed in mercy until tens of thousands of Jews, as well as of Gentiles, accepted Christ. The whole passage shows that God suffered the sins of the Jewish nation, without cutting it off, because its existence was essential in his plans for saving the world. Of it Christ came. From it the apostles were chosen. In it the church was formed, and from it went forth the gospel preachers.
25-29. As he saith also in Hosea. Hosea 2:23. That it was God's plan aforetime to call the Gentiles to salvation he shows by this prophecy. In Hosea 1:10, there is a prediction of the same import, which Paul quotes in verse 26. Both passages show that the gospel call to the Gentiles is only in harmony with the long-declared purpose of God. 27. And Isaiah crieth. Isa. 10:22, 23. Not only do the prophets show that the Gentiles are to be called, but that a great part of Israel is to fall from God. The passage says that though the people of Israel become numerous as the sands of the seashore, only a remnant shall be saved. This prophecy originally applies to the return of the Jews from the Captivity, but, like many other prophecies, has a double application. 28. For he will finish the work. This verse, quoted from Isaiah, shows why only a remnant will be left. God's righteous judgment will cut the rest off from his favor. 29. As Esaias said before. Isaiah spoke this before he wrote what is quoted in verses 27 and 28. This is found in Isaiah 1:9. This passage, like the other, shows that only "a remnant of Israel shall be saved." We had been as Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah had perished on account of their sins. Had it not been for God's mercy, Israel would have been blotted out for the same cause.
30-33. What shall we say then? What conclusion shall we reach? It has been shown that the word of God is not of none effect (verse 6), for it has foreshown all that has taken place. The conclusion is this: That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, had no knowledge of it, had secured righteousness by accepting Christ, through faith in him, while (verse 31) Israel, following after the law of righteousness, hath failed of righteousness before God through unbelief. 32. Wherefore. Why this failure on the part of Israel? Not because God willed that they should be rejected, not because of any foreordination, but because of their unbelief in Christ. They sought it not by faith. Sought not the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ, but a righteousness of works by keeping the law of Moses. They stumbled at the stumbling-stone. At faith in Christ, in a Crucified Christ. This is the one cause of Israel's failure. They fell through unbelief. 33. As it is written. That Christ would be a stumbling-stone to Israel had been foretold in Isaiah 8:14, and 28:16. When Jesus came as a lowly one, and was crucified, the Jews, who expected the Christ to be a mighty earthly king, stumbled and fell.