The Expository Files.


Expository Comments On Romans 9-11

 Romans 9

Part 1 of 3

  

There is a difficult section in Paul's letter to the saints at Rome. If you rush right into Romans chapters 9-11, read it quickly and neglect adequate attention to the context, you may find yourself bewildered. Before we deal with some of these statements from this section, let's think about what the section as a whole is about. {Pause and read through this section before you continue this study.}

There are about three related problems addressed in this section:

The converted Jew might still have lingering doubts and questions about the annulling of the law, the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's family and the end of the Jewish theocratic system. Imagine that you are a Jew in that era. All your life your religion, family and daily life has been tied to the Law of Moses and the nation of Israel. Also, your background has encouraged a separation from the Gentiles, perhaps even hostility. Now Jesus comes, you hear that message and respond. You are a Christian now! Does this mean that suddenly, all of your thoughts and emotions are completely changed and all your views re-directed? Probably not. You may still feel pressure from your past, your peers and persecution. In this section (Romans 9-11), Paul gives teaching designed to help converted Jews understand their different status.

The converted Jews needed help from apostolic authority in dealing with their countrymen who were still unconverted. They would have friends and family still involved in Judaism. To help them meet this challenge, Paul wrote about the change from the old to the new in this section. I believe we can presume, faithful Christians of Jewish background would use truth taught by Paul to instruct and help their friends who remained in Judaism.
The Gentile converts needed to be warned about their attitude toward the Jews. It is tempting to think of this, just as a problem on the Jewish side of the issues. Yet, anytime there is any tension between two groups, both are tempted to react with anger, coldness, and unreasonable contempt. This is a third problem addressed by this section of Romans.

So these three chapters relate to very real problems for Christians (Jew or Gentile) in the first century. The converted Jews might not fully understand their new status. They would need help (teaching) in dealing with their friends and family who remained in Judaism. And, even Gentiles stood in need of this teaching.

Romans Chapter Nine
ROM. 9:1-3 shows Paul's concern for his brethren. These matters were not merely academic issues. His heart was filled with sorrow and grief for his kinsmen according to the flesh. He had Jewish friends who were lost; and some who may have obeyed the gospel, but were confused. And there were Gentiles who simply didn't understand the nature of the problem. All of this was a source of grief for the apostle. But especially, he was deeply bothered by his Jewish brethren who had not obeyed the gospel.

ROM. 9:4-5 teaches, the Jewish nation had a principle place in God's overall plan for the redemption of man. These people were the "Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God." The Jews had enjoyed this status during the time of Mosaic law. All of this had changed, and some of them apparently thought this meant they were shunned or slighted by God. Paul acknowledges their rich history, with no disappointment expressed toward God.

ROM. 9:6-13 begins with a denial and is followed by a simple explanation: GOD DID WHAT HE WANTED TO DO! Paul wants to emphasize that God had not been unfaithful to His children (Israel). The change from the old to the new did not mean that "the word of God has taken no effect." It meant that now, in the fullness of the time, physical lineage or blood wasn't the basis of fellowship with God. God had made certain choices in the past, in the interests of His eternal purpose. In some cases, those choices seemed quite arbitrary to man (v.11), but those were God's business. Those choices involved people with certain lineage. "He points out that Abraham had more than one son, but only one was the child of promise. Isaac had more than one son, but only one was the child of promise, and so on down the line, showing that God was in the process of developing a certain race or nation of people and selecting those who would make up that race." (Robert Turner, Sermons on Grace, p.#61). The choices of God in developing this nation should be grounds, not of exclusive arrogance but respect for the power and wisdom of God (who did just exactly what He decided to do, regardless of human evaluation!).

ROM. 9:14-19 stresses the danger of thinking that God's choices and God's plan wasn't right. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!" Paul is anxious to discourage any thoughts or conclusions that we can find some fault with God or reply against Him. As applied to the problem at hand, Paul will establish that God's choice to include all men in his family is God's business. God raised up individuals and nations for His own purpose (verses 15-18), and man has no right to fi nd fault with this.

ROM. 9:20-29 is an even bolder statement of this, with proof from prophecy. Paul asks, "Who are you to reply against God?" Here he introduces the familiar potter-clay picture, and his point is: the lump of clay is for whatever purpose the potter wills. Yes, God abolished the old covenant, established the new covenant, and elected to accept Gentiles on the same basis as Jews. God had planned to do this before the foundation of the world; "... 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 the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" Hosea had said, speaking for God, "... I will call them My people who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved." Isaiah had proclaimed that the nation of Israel would not have the same status throughout their days.

ROM. 9:30-33 calls upon the readers to think and see the conclusion: "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. 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'" (Rom. 9:30-33, NKJV).

The ninth chapter of Romans may have some difficult phrases and passages. The main point, however, is clear. The Jews were upset that their theocratic, national status had changed and Gentiles were being accepted into God's family. Paul begins his response to this in Romans chapter nine, and in this part of his answer, he simply seems to be saying: God did what he decided to do, and who are we (Jew or Gentile) to reply, find fault or argue??

Bro. Robert Turner observes: " ... we find three 'what ifs' implied. [1] what if God had vessels of mercy as well as vessels of wrath? [2] What if both Jew and Gentile are vessels of mercy? ... [3] What if God saves only those who trust Christ? He makes Christ the testing stone for Jew or Gentile." This is all God's business, His plan and His will.

But whatever anybody says about it, one thing is certain: It is fair! Because anybody - regardless of race, income, gender, education or social standing - anybody can hear, believe and obey the gospel of Christ and be saved! Anybody. Now who wants to reply against that? Will you please notice the last phrase in Romans nine: "... whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame!" But, Paul will point out in the next chapter, "... not all obeyed the gospel," (10:16).

{Next month, Romans Chapter Ten}

 By Warren E. Berkley  
From Expository Files 4.2; February 1997

 

 

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