God’s Sovereign Choice
9 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 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. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 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.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 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? 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 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.’”
“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.’”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 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.”
Romans 9 Commentary
by Hank Workman
They missed the boat. The Israelites, those who knew the Scripture, awaited the promise of the coming Messiah had waited for generations of His coming. He came. He walked among them. He was alongside them. They overlooked Him.
Burdened with the baggage of their traditions they were too steeped in being religious to see the absolute fulfillment of prophecy in the Person of Jesus Christ. Paul’s words here speak of heart-wrenching sorrow he has for his own people who above all others should have turned and embraced Jesus.
“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.”Romans 9:1-2
These words resonate so deeply with me. There are so many in my life who have lost their way. They’ve tasted of the goodness of God, they’ve personally experienced even the graciousness of Jesus and yet life has sidetracked them. Grief has stunted their further growth, religion and doing rather than being fully alive in Christ has taken precedent. Distraction toward things that in light of eternity mean nothing; their investment in things of this world and life is all they think of, participate and invest in.
It is not an understatement to say I feel much like Paul here in his statement of having unceasing grief. Their names on my lips each morning as I pray; their lives come to mind quite often throughout the day. There are indeed those moments, countless actually when I pray to the Spirit of God saying, “I simply don’t know how to pray in this situation any longer.” As He sits beside the throne of God interceding with words too deep to comprehend, I plead with Him to take my sorrow, hear my heart and pray far deeper into the situation of their lives.
Paul lays out through the rest of this chapter some pretty tough statements revolving around the sovereignty of God, His mercy and compassion to save, but also His ability to harden the heart of those who are so lost and turned from Him. The stumbling block of Jesus continues to trip people up even today. It is these words that bring the sorrow even heavier for these.
Don’t miss the boat of the goodness of God, the work He is doing around you even. Don’t miss the boat to the greater things God is calling you toward. I know for some the boat has taken off and they stand alone on the dock, weighed down with luggage and chains that stopped them from boarding. It’s a haunting picture.
Oh, don’t miss the boat of the trans-formative and hope-filled work of Jesus. May the Holy Spirit, who is interceding right at this moment, breakthrough with His prayers and awaken the slumbering, raise the dead in their faith, and reignite a heart that is cold.
Romans 9 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Paul now shifts his focus to the Israelites specifically. His heart is so heavy for his brothers and sisters. Although they had knowledge of God, they had not truly humbled themselves to him. He goes as far as to say that he would sacrifice himself for Israel to be saved. This is not an arrogant statement, but similar to the likeness of Christ who was scorned so sinners could be saved.
“He had just that self-sacrificing spirit of Moses, that he would lose anything and everything if they might but be saved. And this is the spirit which ought to actuate every Church of Christ. The Church that is always caring for her own maintenance is no church. The Church that would be willing to be destroyed if it could save the sons of men — which feels as if, whatever her shame or sorrow, it would be nothing if she could but save sinners…”C.H. Spurgeon
Paul reflects on the chosen state of Israel and how God was faithful to them time and time again. This makes his sorrow even heavier. Most continued to try and achieve right standing by their works instead of embracing the new faith through Jesus Christ. Many of us do the same today.
This attitude of Paul’s is a critical step in the life of a believer. When we go from angry, bitter, and dismissive to tender, compassionate and sorrowful, we truly understand what it must be like for the unbeliever. Paul was undoubtedly treated terribly by many Jewish people. He was laughed at, beaten, jailed, set up, slandered, and cursed by the religious elite who were supposed to be representing God.
Yet, despite all of this, Paul is not upset with them. In fact, we see quite the opposite. He is so deeply moved to sacrifice himself to see Israel redeemed. Paul’s dying wish, his entire existence, was to save lost souls. He wanted Christ’s name to be spread like wildfire, and he would do anything to fulfill this calling. I wonder how many of us dedicate to our calling like Paul did? Once we discover what purpose we have, and what God has asked of us, how many of us can say we have laid everything on the line to love God and love people?
Think about those people who mock and ridicule you because of your faith. Do you see those people as enemies, or do you have great compassion on them because of the reality of their separation from God?