As we begin chapter 9, we see where Paul shifts his attention. For the next three chapters, 9-11, Paul goes into detail explaining and clarifying “justification by faith”.
As we read this section it might not be clear what Paul is justifying or what he is not ashamed of. But we must remember that he was a Jewish Pharisee and was in the church, following the rules. Then when he was converted (Acts 9). He moved to a pro-Jesus mind set. Well this did not settle well with the Jewish community. We must remember, he was actually considered a traitor to the Jewish nation. He ministered to Gentiles, he taught freedom from the law of Moses. When we take that into consideration when we read this section we can see where Paul is working to clarify the situation. Paul shows his love for Israel and the Jews, as well as his desire for their welfare.
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, 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 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.”
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 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.” – Romans 9:1-33
Paul had argued in Romans 8 that the believer is secure in Jesus Christ and that God’s election would stand (Rom. 8:28–30). But someone might ask, “What about the Jews? They were chosen by God, and yet now you tell us they are set aside and God is building His church. Did God fail to keep His promises to Israel?” In other words, the very character of God was at stake. If God was not faithful to the Jews, how do we know He will be faithful to the church?
We also need to understand that in this chapter, Paul touches on Israel’s past election. In Romans 10, he will touch on Israel’s present rejection, and in chapter 11, Israel’s future restoration. Here is something to grasp, if you have not already, Israel is that only country in the world with a complete history defined in the bible. Past, present and future.
Caring for the lost
In verses 1-3, Paul expresses his concern for his Jewish brothers by saying that he would willingly take their punishment if that could save them. Paul knew that only Jesus could save anybody, but he was showing his compassion and desire for their salvation. He was declaring that he was willing to sacrifice himself for others.
In our American culture and the world today, people are more concerned about their own well being than sacrificing for someone else. Even in marriages today, the tension that builds after the alter is “how much do I have to give? What is in it for me?”. The real question comes to do we truly focus on His Kingdom or ours?
How concerned are you for those who don’t know Christ? Are you willing to sacrifice your time, money, energy, comfort, and safety to see them come to faith in Jesus?
For His glory
Paul uses an interesting example in verses 17-18, where he quotes Exodus 9:16. Paul uses this example to show how salvation is God’s work, not man’s. If we recall, God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s sin was to harden his heart, to confirm his disobedience, so that the consequences of his rebellion would be his own punishment.
In verse 21, Paul uses the analogy of the potter and the clay. Paul is not shadowing us with doom and gloom, he is indicating the Creator is the one in control. God will use people and situations to glorify Himself, not his creation. As we go through trials and challenges we must realize that our experiences are not solely for us. There may be people in our family or who we witness to that will be impacted by Christ. Not always in our glory, but in our walk and faith.
We must also remember this situation when things go well. When we succeed when we are rewarded, it is not about us, but our creator. He allowed us to succeed, he enabled us to do what we did. Think of it this way. If a cup is used successfully to do its job, do we glorify it? No, we acknowledge it, but we don’t glorify it.
A small number
Verses 27 – 29 are referring to Isaiah where it was declared that only a small number of God’s original people, the Jews, would be saved. This is vital to know that there is no entitlement, just faith and obedience. As we know from Matthew chapter 7, many believe they are going, but He does not know them. Just because you were born or live in the bible belt or your grandfather was a preacher, does not get you into heaven.
When it gets to election there are many examples that illustrate it is not by physical definition. there is a difference between the natural seed of Abraham and the spiritual children of Abraham. Abraham actually had two sons, Ishmael (by Hagar) and Isaac (by Sarah). Since Ishmael was the firstborn, he should have been chosen, but it was Isaac that God chose. Isaac and Rebecca had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. As the firstborn, Esau should have been chosen, but it was Jacob that God chose. And Esau and Jacob had the same father and mother, unlike Ishmael and Isaac, who had the same father but different mothers. God did not base His election on the physical. Therefore, if the nation of Israel— Abraham’s physical descendants—has rejected God’s Word, this does not nullify God’s elective purposes at all.
Faith, not works
In verses 31-33, we see that after 2000+ years, humanity is still dealing with the selfish behavior. We fall into the trap of ignoring our heart and motivation and fall back on just relying on the law. We have to continue to realize that doing right and being right are not the same.
God’s plan is not for those who try to earn his favor by being good, it is for those who realize that they can never be good enough and must depend on Christ. We can be saved only by putting our faith in what Jesus Christ has done. If we do that, we will never be put to shame.
The Jews and many people we know, and maybe even some time in our lives, people were so passionate about God and wanted to honor him that they became obsessed with the rules, the traditions and the law. Many times people become more dedicated to the rules, traditions and law than to God.
Salvation by faith and not works was not new with the coming of Christ. The Jews had the law and the law declared the same thing but it was frequently overlooked. As we look at Genesis, Abraham was declared righteous, but not by works…
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. – Genesis 15:6, ESV
The stumbling stone
What is the stumbling stone?
The “stumbling stone” was Jesus. The Jews did not believe in him, because he did not meet up to their expectations for the Messiah. Some people today still stumble over Jesus because salvation by faith does not make sense to them. They would rather earn their way to God. Give them a list of what to do and they will do it. In addition to just wanting a list of t0-do’s, people don’t want to be judged. They don’t want their sins to count against them. Many believe it really is not fair to count sin against them, if they are doing the good things such as going to church, putting money in the offering and going to bible study.
The other group that stumbles over Jesus, are the ones that just don’t see how his approach is wise. It goes against the world view. Jesus requires humility and many are unwilling to humble themselves before him. Jesus requires obedience and many refuse to put their wills at his disposal.