English Standard Version (ESV)
God’s Sovereign Choice Romans Chapter Nine
1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” Israel’s Unbelief
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness[d] did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
9:25-29 The rejecting of the Jews, and the taking in the Gentiles, were foretold in the Old Testament. It tends very much to the clearing of a truth, to observe how the Scripture is fulfilled in it. It is a wonder of Divine power and mercy that there are any saved: for even those left to be a seed, if God had dealt with them according to their sins, had perished with the rest. This great truth this Scripture teaches us. Even among the vast number of professing Christians it is to be feared that only a remnant will be saved. Matthew Henry http://biblehub.com/romans/9-29.htm
The situation in view here in these verses is Paul’s contemporary situation, and it is the same today. We saw it in verse 24: some Jews are being called to salvation and Gentiles too are now included in the salvation that was once promised to Israel. The main issue that Paul has been dealing with since verse 3 is that only some Jews are called. Many are accursed and cut off from Christ.
Why? Why are there so few Jews believing in Christ? His first answer in verses 6-29 is that God has chosen some in Israel to be saved, but not all. God is not obliged to save every Israelite: “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (v. 8). God does this, verse 11 says, “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.” So the freedom of God in election is Paul’s first answer to why only some Jews – and now also Gentiles (v. 24) – are being saved.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible http://biblecommenter.com/romans/9-29.htm
And as Esaias (Isaiah) said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. 9 vs 29
And as Esaias said – Isaiah 1:9.
Before – The apostle had just cited one prediction from the tenth chapter of Isaiah. He now says that Isaiah had affirmed the same thing in a previous part of his prophecy.
Except the Lord of Sabaoth – In Isaiah, the Lord of Hosts. The word “Sabaoth” is the Hebrew word rendered “hosts” (armies). It properly denotes armies or military hosts organized for war. Hence, it denotes the “hosts of heaven,” and means:
(1) “The angels” who are represented as marshalled or arranged into military orders; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15; Jde 1:6; 1 Kings 22:19, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him;” Psalm 103:21; Psalm 148:2.
(2) the stars; Jeremiah 33:22, “As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, etc.” Isaiah 40:26; Deuteronomy 4:19, etc. God is called the Lord of hosts, as being at the head of all these armies; their King and their Commander. It is a phrase properly expressive of his majesty and power, and is appropriately introduced here, as the “act of saving” “the seed” was a signal “act of power” in the midst of great surrounding wickedness.
Had left – Had preserved, or kept from destruction. Here their preservation is ascribed to God, and it is affirmed that if God had not interposed, “the whole nation” would have been cut off. This fully establishes the doctrine of the apostle, that God might cast off the Jews, and extend the blessings to the Gentiles.
A seed – The Hebrew in Isaiah means “one surviving or escaping,” corresponding with the word “remnant.” The word “seed” commonly means in the Scriptures “descendants, posterity.” In this place it means “a part, a small portion; a remnant,” like the small portion of the harvest which is reserved for sowing.
We had been as Sodoma – The nation was so wicked, that unless God had preserved a small number who were pious from the general corruption of the people, they would have been swept off by judgment, like Sodom and Gomorrah. We are told that ten righteous men would have saved Sodom; Genesis 18:32. Among the Israelites, in a time of great general depravity, a small number of holy men were found who preserved the nation. The design of the apostle here was the same as in the previous verses – to show that it was settled in the Jewish history that God might cast off the people, and reject them from enjoying the special privileges of his friends. It is true that in Isaiah he has reference to the temporal punishments of the Jews. But it settles “a great principle,” for which Paul was contending, that God might cast off the nation consistently with his promises and his plans. We may learn here,
(1) That the existence of religion among a people is owing to the love of God. “Except the Lord “had left us, etc.”
(2) it is owing to his mercy that “any men” are kept from sin, and any nation from destruction.
(3) we see the value of religion and of pious people in a nation. Ten such would have saved Sodom; and a few such saved Judea; compare Matthew 5:13-14.
(4) God has aright to withdraw his mercies from any other people, however exalted their privileges, and leave them to ruin; and we should not be high-minded, but fear; Rom, Matthew 10:20.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 9:30
But when we get to Romans 9:30 Paul gives another answer. It’s an old, familiar answer from Romans 1-8. Why are many Gentiles and only some Jews being saved, but Israel as a whole is not – for now? Answer: Gentiles are finding righteousness and Israel is not. Verses 30-31: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith [there’s the reason they are being included]; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law [there’s the reason they are not being included].”
What shall we say then? – What conclusion shall we draw from the previous train of remarks? To what results have we come by the passages adduced from the Old Testament? This question is asked preparatory to his summing up the argument; and he had so stated the argument that the conclusion which he was about to draw was inevitable.
The Gentiles – That many of the Gentiles; or that the way was open for them, and many of them “had actually” embraced the righteousness of faith. This Epistle was written as late as the year ad at that time multitudes of pagans had embraced the Christian religion. It is possible that the Gentiles may never have even heard that there is a law of Moses.
Which followed not after righteousness – The apostle does not mean that none of the pagans had any solicitude about right and wrong, or that there were no anxious inquiries among them; but he intends particularly to place them in contrast with the Jew. They had not made it their main object to justify themselves; they were not filled with prejudice and pride as the Jews were, who supposed that they had complied with the Law, and who felt no need of any other justification; they were sinners, and they felt it, and had no such mighty obstacle in a system of self-righteousness to overcome as the Jew had. Still it was true that they were excessively wicked, and that the prevailing characteristic among them was that they did not follow after righteousness; see Romans
1. The word “followed” here often denotes to pursue with intense energy, as a hunter pursues his game, or a man pursues a flying enemy. The Jews had sought righteousness in that way; the Gentiles had not. The word “righteousness” here means the same as justification. The Gentiles, which sought not justification, have obtained justification.
The other Sunday when Alan Harris was here and we had 33 guest. One of the guest said of Alan preaching, “I like this preaching but its not for me” Its not that he is a bad person but he has an no attitude toward God.
Have attained to righteousness – Have become justified. This was a matter of fact; and this was what the prophet had predicted. The apostle does not say that the sins of the Gentiles, or their indifference to the subject, was any reason why God justified them, or that people would be as safe in sin as in attempting to seek for salvation. He establishes the doctrine, indeed, that God is a sovereign; but still it is implied that the gospel did not have the special obstacle to contend with among the Gentiles that it had among the Jews. There was less pride, obstinacy, self-confidence; and people were more easily brought “to see” that they were sinners, and to feel their need of a Saviour. Though God dispenses his favors as a sovereign, and though all are opposed by nature to the gospel, yet it is always true that the gospel finds more obstacles among some people than among others. This was a most cutting and humbling doctrine to the pride of a Jew; and it is no wonder, therefore, that the apostle guarded it as he did.
Which is of faith – Justification by faith in Christ; see the note at Romans 1:17.
Two Non-Contradictory Reasons for Salvation (Piper)
Now let’s pause right here and make sure that we see the massively obvious and important thing. There are at least two reasons anyone gets saved, and they are not contradictory. One reason is that God has chosen him unconditionally (Romans 9:11, 21-23) and called him effectually to himself (9:8, 24). God is the decisive actor in this matter of salvation. But there is another reason why a person gets saved: namely, that he “attains righteousness.” Verse 30: “Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith.” This is why they were saved. They attained righteousness.
So be sure that you keep these two things together: unconditional election, and the attaining of righteousness. When God chooses unconditionally an unworthy sinner like you or me to be his child and to be saved from wrath and given everlasting joy, he can’t just bring us into his fellowship without any righteousness. God is holy and perfect and just. He hates sin. His righteousness blazes against all God-belittling attitudes and actions. Imperfection of any kind cannot approach his blazing holiness without being punished. The only persons who stand before God without being destroyed are perfectly righteous persons.
The Way of Salvation According to the Law: here is a perfect explaination of the need of Christ for our salvation and why its not by our right living that gets us saved.
So there is none righteous, no not one – except Christ. The perfect Christ. The sinless Christ. And so Paul says, “The goal of the law is Christ for righteousness for everyone who believes.” What does the law teach as the way of salvation? Two things, in perfect harmony.
1. First, trust and obey God perfectly and you will be righteous and you will be saved. Accomplish a perfect obedience of faith and you will stand righteous before God. That’s the first message of the law. Nobody but Jesus, in all the world, has ever, or will ever, fulfill the law’s demand for perfect faith and the obedience flowing from it. God knew that when he wrote the law. That’s why, in his grace the law has another message in perfect harmony with the first.
2. The second message of the law is this: since you cannot fulfill the demand for a perfect obedience of faith, look (through blemish-free, sacrificed lambs) to the long-term goal and end of the law. That is, look to final, blemish-free Lamb of God offered in your place. Look to “Christ for righteousness.” Let your faith not merely be a trust in God to help you perform an imperfect righteousness (that will never suffice!), but let your faith also be a trust in God to provide the perfect righteousness that another has done for you – “Christ for righteousness for everyone who believes.” That’s the second message of the law concerning salvation.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 9:31
But Israel – The Jews. The apostle does not mean to affirm that none of the Jews had obtained mercy, but that “as a people,” or acting according to the prevalent principles of the nation to work out their own righteousness, they had not obtained it.
Which followed after the law of righteousness – The phrase, “the law of righteousness,” means the law of justice, or “the just law.” That Law demands perfect purity; and even its external observance demanded holiness. The Jews supposed that they rendered such obedience to that Law as to constitute “a meritorious” ground of justification. This they had “followed after,” that is, pursued zealously and unremittingly. The reason why they did not obtain justification in that way is fully stated in Romans 1-3 where it is shown that the Law demands perfect compliance with its precepts; and that Jews, as well as Gentiles, had altogether failed in rendering such compliance.
Hath not attained to the law of righteousness – They have not come to yield true obedience to the Law, even though imperfect; not such obedience as to give evidence that they have been justified. We may remark here,
1) That no conclusion could have been more humbling to a Jew than this. It constituted the whole of the prevalent religion, and was the object of their incessant toils.
(2) as they made the experiment fully, and failed: as they had the best advantages for it, and did not succeed, but reared only a miserable and delusive system of self-righteousness Philippians 3:4-9; it follows, that all similar experiments must fail, and that none now can be justified by the Law.
(3) thousands fail in the same attempt.
They seek to justify themselves before God. They attempt to weave a righteousness of their own. The moral man does this. The immoral man attempts it as much as the moral man, and is as confident in his own righteousness. The troubled sinner does this; and this it is which keeps him so long from the cross of Christ. All this must be renounced; and man must come as a poor, lost, ruined sinner, and throw himself upon the mere mercy of God in Christ for justification and life.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 9:32
Wherefore? – Why? The apostle proceeds to state the reason why so uniform and remarkable a result happened. “They sought it not by faith, etc.” They depended on their own righteousness, and not on the mercy of God to be obtained by faith.
By the works of the law – By complying with all the demands of the Law so that they might merit salvation. Their attempted obedience included their prayers, fastings, sacrifices, etc., as well as compliance with the demands of the moral law. It may be asked here, perhaps, how the Jews could know any better than this? how should they know anything about justification by faith? To this I:answer:
(1) That the doctrine was stated in the Old Testament;