Line By Line Through Romans 9 | Part Two
Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas Baptist University
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
Click HERE for Part One
VI. WHY GOD IS JUST TO HARDEN UNFAITHFUL ISRAELITES TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PROMISE IN BRINGING THE WORD (17-18)
- For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
In the same way God hardened the already rebellious will of Pharaoh in order to accomplish the first Passover, so too God hardened the already rebellious wills of Israelites to accomplish the real Passover. God’s power and goodness was displayed in mercy-ing unfaithful Israelites in the day of Moses and in hardening the unfaithful Israelites in the day of the Messiah.
- Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
Sometimes God will fulfill His promises by showing Israelites mercy, but His Word will never fail. Sometimes God will fulfill His promises by hardening Israelites, but His Word will never fail. Note: Those judicially hardened or cut off are not born in this condition, but have “grown hardened” over years of rebellion (Acts 28:27), they are cut off for unbelief (11:20) and the hope of the apostle is that they may be grafted back in and saved (11:11-32).
VII. IF THE ISRAELITES’ UNRIGHTEOUSNESS ACCOMPLISHES GOD’S PROMISE TO BRING HIS WORD, WHY ARE THEY TO BLAME? (19-21)
- “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will? But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?”
You (an Israelite hardened to accomplish God’s promise) will say to me (an Israelite shown mercy to accomplish God’s promise), why are we to blame if God’s will is being fulfilled? As the apostle already indicated in 3:5, this is a man-made argument that reveals a heart that has become calloused in its rebellion, otherwise they might see, hear, understand and repent (Acts 17:30; 28:27).
- “Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”
The lump of hardened clay represents Israel who is had grown calloused in rebellion (Acts 28:27) and who are now being remolded into two kinds of vessels: Those unfaithful Israelites remolded, by means of signs from the incarnate Messiah Himself, to bring the Word. Those unfaithful Israelites remolded, by means of judicially hardening, to accomplish the ignoble purpose of bringing redemption on the cross and the grafting in of the Gentiles (yet they still may be saved, Rom. 11:11-32).
VIII. HOW GOD’S WORD, AND THUS HIS GLORY, IS REVEALED THROUGH MERCY-ING AND HARDENING ISRAEL (22-24)
- “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known:” Just as God manifests Himself through Pharaoh’s judicial hardening, He likewise does so through Israel’s judicial hardening.
- “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction:” God patiently put up with Israel even in their stubborn rebellion so as to be “cut off,” “given over” or “prepared” for the destruction they have earned (like the Edomites and Egyptians before them).
- “and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” The promise made to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth (by the coming Messiah and His message) is now being fulfilled through the hardening and mercy-ing of Israel. The vessels prepared for mercy are “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3) who God has promised His blessing from the very beginning: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13; Joel 2:32).
IX. HOW ALL THE NATIONS BENEFIT FROM THE MERCY-ING AND HARDENING OF ISRAEL BY THE BRINGING OF GOD’S WORD (25-29)
- As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.” And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.”
Notice that even in the original context the author acknowledges God’s genuine love for Israel despite their rebellion (Hosea 3:1), which is echoed by Paul throughout his entire context (Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1, 21; 11:11-32). God told Hosea to call his child “Lo-Ammi,” meaning “Not My People.” However, God also promised this was temporary. People formally not known to be His people are now benefitting from the redemptive plan God has brought to pass through both the noble and ignoble vessels formed by the merciful Potter from the predominately unfaithful lump of Israelite clay. Paul is using the scriptures to demonstrate that this has always been God’s mysterious redemptive plan (Eph. 3:1-13).
- “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.’ And as Isaiah said before: ‘Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.’”
Regardless of the Israelites unfaithfulness throughout the generations God has always saved a believing remnant from physical destruction so as to carry out the purpose for which Israel was first elected: to bring the Word to the world. God’s promise will not fail, even if Israel is unfaithful. If Israel had received what they deserved they would have been like the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Though the number of natural descendants are as countless as all the sand of the sea, only those Israelites who (like the Gentiles) pursue righteousness by faith would attain it.
X. PAUL’S OWN COMMENTARY OF THIS PASSAGE AS BEING ABOUT FAITH IN THE WORD VERSUS WORKS OF THE LAW (30-33)
- “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.”
The Gentiles did not run after the law and desire to keep the commandments in order to earn God’s favor (the covenant laws represented by Hagar/Ishmael to begin this chapter), but they trusted in His promise (the covenant promise represented by Sarah/Isaac, see Gal. 4:21-26). The Israelites did run after and desire to keep the commandments in order to earn God’s favor (much like Abraham trying to produce a son in the flesh through a slave woman), but they have not attained it. From the beginning this chapter has been about faith or works, not synergism or monergism. Salvation is all of God. But our sovereign God chooses to save those who pursue righteousness by faith rather than by works regardless of their nationality or morality.
- “Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’”
Why were the Israelites not able to attain righteousness? Was it because they were rejected by God before the foundation of the earth and not given the grace they needed to believe? By no means! The apostle’s answer is clear and the difference is faith verses works, not chosen verses un-chosen. The idea of a Messiah being crucified by the Israelites own hand was a “stumbling stone and a rock of offense.” To admit Jesus was their own Messiah would require them to own up to the shame of crucifying Him. But the apostle reminds them that whoever believes in Christ will not be put to shame for their wrong doing (see also Rom. 10:11). Throughout this letter to the church in Rome, Paul clearly explains that salvation is attained by faith rather than works. So, why were some unable to attain righteousness? They pursued righteousness by law (Rom. 3:10-19) rather than by faith (Rom. 3:21-31). One should not assume that because the former is unattainable so is the latter.