The Epistle to the Romans: Romans 9:1-16

Romans 9:1-16
Chapter 9:1-16ROM 9:1-161I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. 6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10And 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 that calleth;) 12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. (Romans 9:1‑16)
The eighth chapter marked the close of the doctrinal part of the Epistle, and the Holy Spirit in chapters 9, 10 and 11 gives attention to the past, the present and the future of the Jews. On what footing, or ground, did the sons of Jacob stand before God after Sinai? Has He cast them away forever? Or will they again be His people as a nation, as once they were? These and other questions are answered in the section of the Epistle upon which we now enter.
The Acts, from the beginning of Paul's preaching (chapter 9:20-30) abounds in evidence of the bitter opposition of the Jews who rejected God's offer of salvation through Christ for themselves, and would not hear of His favor going out to the Gentiles equally with themselves. Regarding the apostle as an enemy of his nation, they once and again planned to kill him, and repeatedly stirred up persecution against Paul and his fellow laborers in the gospel. Rightly, then, this part of the Epistle, which deals with the Jews, is introduced with an expression of the apostle's true attitude toward his race.
Verses 1-3. What he says is truth in Christ, not a lie; his conscience bearing witness with him in the Holy Spirit, that he has great grief and continual pain in his heart on account of his brethren, his kinsmen, according to flesh. Paul had even wished (for it is believed that the correct reading of the third verse is "For I have wished, etc.") to be a curse from Christ for the Jews; in this he was like Moses in Ex. 32:3232Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. (Exodus 32:32). What love this was, for kinsmen so unresponsive, so unworthy; yet altogether beneath the measure of the love of Him who endured the cross for His enemies (Rom. 5:7-107For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:7‑10))!
In the fourth verse seven privileges, divinely given to Jacob's children, are named in an order for the most part historical, that is evidently of God.
The first of them goes back to their beginning; they are Israelites-the offspring of the patriarch whose name was changed to Israel, meaning "Prince of God" (Gen. 32:2828And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28)).
Secondly, theirs is the adoption, as it is said in Ex. 4:22, 2322And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. (Exodus 4:22‑23), "Israel is My son, My firstborn"; this was the word Moses was to deliver to the ruler of Egypt who held the Israelites in cruel bondage.
Thirdly, theirs is the glory; to them God made manifestations of His glory constantly during their forty years' journey from Egypt to Canaan (Ex. 40:34-3834Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. 38For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40:34‑38), Num. 9:15-2315And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. 18At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. 19And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not. 20And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed. 21And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses. (Numbers 9:15‑23), and other passages referring to particular occasions); afterward the glory was displayed at the dedication of Solomon's temple (2 Chron. 5:13, 1413It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; 14So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God. (2 Chronicles 5:13‑14), and 7:1-3): later in the Old Testament it was seen only in visions of the prophets (Isa. 6; Ezek. 1; 8:4; 9:3, 10; 11:22, 23; 43:2, 5, and 44:4; the last two passages referring to the temple to be built at Jerusalem in the Millennium).
Fourth in the list is "the covenants"; these were made with Abraham (Gen. 15:18-2118In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18‑21) and 17:10-14), and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 2:2424And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. (Exodus 2:24); Lev. 26:4242Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. (Leviticus 26:42)); with the nation at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19 to 24); and with David (2 Sam. 7:8-168Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: 9And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. 10Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, 11And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. 12And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 15But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. 16And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. (2 Samuel 7:8‑16), and 23:5; Psa. 89:33I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, (Psalm 89:3); Jer. 33:20-2220Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; 21Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. 22As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me. (Jeremiah 33:20‑22)). The new covenant to be made with Israel in the coming day (Jer. 31:31-3431Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31‑34)) completes the list.
The giving of the law, and the service, were God's wise provision for His earthly people. No other nation has ever been able to boast of a code of laws and a system of religious observance which, down to the smallest detail, were given to them by God. "The promises" speak of His faithfulness, as well as His grace. Open your Bible at Gen. 12 and read the promise to Abraham at the beginning of the chapter. Turn to the 22nd chapter, and read verses 15 to 18. Pass on to 2 Sam. 7, and consider the promise therein made to David concerning his throne. These are but three of many precious unconditional promises made by God concerning Israel; everyone of them will be carried out in the coming day of that nation's rebirth.
Verse 5: "Whose are the fathers,"-the men of faith who in Israel's early history believed God and walked, as the habitual rule of their lives, before Him: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and others. "And of whom, as according to flesh is the Christ, who is over all God, [or, is God over all] blessed forever." (N.T.). Father, Son and Holy Ghost, all three Persons are God, one God; so the Scriptures unvaryingly declare, while pointing to the Son's having become man, and of Israel's race, through birth of the virgin Mary. Nor did He, in becoming man, partake of man's sinful nature, or cease to be God.
Verses 6, 7. It is not that the word of God concerning Israel has failed. It might have been said that the Jews owe their present state to the rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, but though this is implied, the direct statement of it is not made, while with gracious forbearance the objections of the Jews are inquired into. Did they claim that all of Israel should be blessed? Not all are Israel which are of Israel, nor because they are seed of Abraham are all children, for Abraham had Ishmael as well as Isaac, and no Jew would admit that the Ishmaelites (Arabs) were within the enclosure of the favored people. The word indeed was, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen. 21:1212And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. (Genesis 21:12)).
Verses 8, 9. Then the favor of God was connected with His promise, not with natural birth; it was God's sovereignty, to do as He pleased.
Verses 10-13. But it might be said, Ishmael was the child of a bondwoman, a slave; while Isaac was Sarah's (the wife's) son.
The twin births of Jacob and Esau are therefore cited, and God's purpose according to His own sovereignty appears more plainly in the word to Rebecca which is next quoted, "The elder shall serve the younger" (Gen. 25:2323And 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. (Genesis 25:23))-uttered before the children were born. Thus is it shown to be not of works, but of Him that calls. Concluding the reference to Rebecca's twins, a passage in the last book of the Old Testament (Mal. 1:2-52I 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, 3And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. 4Whereas 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. 5And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel. (Malachi 1:2‑5)) is named. There, nearly fourteen centuries after Jacob and Esau had died, God reviews their lives, the one, though with much of the strength of nature about him, that had to be broken down, keeping God before him; and the other, looking not to God at all, a man of the flesh was Esau. "Jacob have I loved." God could then say, "but Esau have I hated." Long before this Esau, or Edom, the nation which sprang from Jacob's brother, had taken their stand in unrelenting hatred of Israel.
Verses 14-16. What then is to be concluded? Is there unrighteousness with God? Far be it. He is sovereign, and will have mercy on whom He chooses, and will have compassion on whom He will. Never does the Word of God say or even imply, what men have said of Him, that He predestinates any man for the lake of fire, for eternal judgment. The words quoted in the fifteenth verse, are taken from Ex. 34:1919All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. (Exodus 34:19), uttered after the people had turned (after witnessing God's power and love for them in delivering them out of Egypt) from Him to idolatry, to worshiping a golden calf. He might well have consumed them all, but in grace, falling back upon His own sovereignty, He declares, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." So then, as verse 16 concludes, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.
(To Be Continued, D.V.)