“I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.”
AMP. “I am speaking the truth in Christ. I am not lying; my conscience, enlightened and prompted by the Holy Spirit, bearing witness with me. That I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.”
Wesley. In Christ — This seems to imply an appeal to him. In the Holy Ghost — Through his grace. I have great sorrow — A high degree of spiritual sorrow and of spiritual Joy may consist together, Romans 8:39. By declaring his sorrow for the unbelieving Jews, who excluded themselves from all the blessings he had enumerated, he shows that what he was now about to speak, he did not speak from any prejudice to them.
Seemuth. Most of Israel has rejected Paul’s message. The Jews sit in the status of the guilty. They are not innocent, and they are not redeemed since that have not yielded to Christ by faith.
ESV. Paul suffers great anguish because his countrymen are not saved. He says that he would choose hell for himself if it meant that Israel could be saved. But none but Christ is capable of being the substitute.
Womack. Paul goes to great lengths to verify that his coming statements are truth. Without the introduction, what follows in Romans 9:3 would seem to be incredible exaggeration.
Paul had affirmed that he (nor we) was never separated from the love of God. In other places, he said he continually rejoiced, and he commanded us to do the same (Philippians 4:4). Here, he has great heaviness and continual sorrow. Both emotions coexisted in Paul. Indeed, every godly person has great joy and thankfulness for all that God has done, but also great sorrow for others who don’t know that joy.
This doesn’t contradict Paul’s other statements (2 Corinthians 7:13; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:4, 18, 2:2, 18, 4:4; Colossians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 3:9, 5:16; and Philemon 7). Paul operated in the joy of the Holy Ghost, just as he told others to do. However, he had heaviness and sorrow in his heart when it came to the unbelieving Jews.
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh.”
AMP. “For, if it were possible, I would wish that I myself were accursed, separated, or banished from Christ to that my brothers, my natural kinsmen, would have salvation.”
Wesley. I could wish — Human words cannot fully describe the motions of souls that are full of God. As if he had said, I could wish to suffer in their stead; yea, to be an anathema from Christ in their place. In how high a sense he wished this, who can tell, unless himself had been asked and had resolved the question? Certainly, he did not then consider himself at all, but only others and the glory of God. The thing could not be, yet the wish was pious and solid; though with a tacit condition, if it were right and possible.
Seemuth. The Greek word translated “wish” is usually translated “pray” in Paul’s other letters. Maybe Paul prayed for the exchange. See Ex. 32:31. Paul is like Moses.
Womack. Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Paul says that he would sacrifice his physical life and eternal soul if it would bring salvation to the Jewish people. That degree of love is not found in man. This was love expressed through Jesus living in Paul (Galatians 2:20).
This well-meaning but misplaced desire led to Paul's compromise with the Judaizers in Jerusalem (Acts 21:20-26), and to his imprisonment (Acts 21:27-33). However passionate we are about a good thing; we need to focus on the Lord’s calling in our lives.
Paul said that he would go to hell in place of the Jews if that would bring their salvation. That’s perfect “AGAPE” love that Jesus demonstrated when He died for our sins. Although Paul’s desire is commendable, he would not have accomplished anything other than what Jesus had already accomplished. Jesus commissioned Paul to go to the Gentiles, yet we see him repeatedly going to the Jews, even after he said he wouldn’t do that anymore. Paul eventually went to Jerusalem, apparently against the Holy Spirit’s instruction. He was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the Jews (Acts 21:13).
“Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.”
AMP. “For they are Israelites, and to them belong God’s adoption as a nation and the glorious Shekinah Glory Presence. With them were the special covenants made, to them was the Law given. To them the temple worship was revealed, and God’s promises announced.
Wesley. Whose is the adoption — He enumerates six prerogatives, of which the first pair respect God the Father, the second Christ, the third the Holy Ghost.
The adoption and the glory — That is, Israel is the first-born child of God, and the God of glory is their God, Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 106:20. These are relative to each other. At once God is the Father of Israel, and Israel are the people of God. He speaks not here of the ark, or any corporeal thing. God himself is "the glory of his people Israel." And the covenants, and the giving of the law - The covenant was given long before the law. It is termed covenants, in the plural, because it was so often and so variously repeated, and because there were two dispositions of it, Galatians 4:24, frequently called two covenants; the one promising, the other exhibiting the promise.
And the worship, and the promises — The true way of worshipping God; and all the promises made to the fathers.
Seemuth. God had choses Israel as an adopted son (Adoption) out of Egypt. God walked with Israel by a pillar of cloud and fire (Glory) and manifested Himself in the Tabernacle and Temple. He gave His covenants to the Jews (Covenants). The world learned of Yahweh law because of the Jews (The Law). They had the Temple and Law (Worship). The Messiah would come through the Jews (Promises).
Womack. The Jews had all these things Romans 9:4-5 going for them, but their rejection of Jesus and His grace voided all these advantages. Faith in what Jesus did for us trumps all the good works we can do.
The word “adoption” was never used in the Old Testament, although the concept was there. The Lord told Pharaoh that Israel was His son (Exodus 4:22). Moses reminded the Israelites that they were the children of the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 14:1). Jeremiah said that God was a father to Israel and that Ephraim was His firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).
“Of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”
To them belong the patriarchs, and as far as His natural descent was concerned, from them is the Christ, who is exalted and supreme over all, God, blessed forever! Amen (so let it be).
Wesley. Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. To the preceding, St. Paul now adds two more prerogatives. Theirs are the fathers - The patriarchs and holy men of old, yea, the Messiah himself. Who is over all, God blessed for ever — The original words imply the self-existent, independent Being, who was, is, and is to come. Overall — The supreme; as being God, and consequently blessed forever. No words can more dearly express his divine, supreme majesty, and his gracious sovereignty both over Jews and, gentiles.
Seemuth. To Israel belong the patriarchs and even, through descent, the Messiah Himself.
Womack. The Jews have a rich, godly history. All the patriarchs were their forefathers. Jesus came to be the Savior of the Jews. They should have been the first to accept Christ, but they, in the main rejected their Messiah.
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”
AMP. “However, it is not as though God’s Word had failed or come to nothing. For it is not everybody who is a descendant of Jacob (Israel) who belongs to the true Israel.”
Wesley. Not as if — The Jews imagined that the word of God must fail if all their nation were not saved. This St. Paul now refutes and proves that the word itself had foretold their falling away. The word of God — The promises of God to Israel. Had fallen to the ground — This could not be. Even now, says the apostle, some enjoy the promises; and hereafter "all Israel shall be saved." This is the sum of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters.
For — Here he enters upon the proof of it. All are not Israel, who are of Israel — The Jews vehemently maintained the contrary; namely, that all who were born Israelites, and they only, were the people of God. The former part of this assertion is refuted here, the latter, Romans 9:24, etc. The sum is, God accepts all believers, and them only; and this is no way contrary to his word. Nay, he hath declared in his word, both by types and by express testimonies, that believers are accepted as the "children of the promise," while unbelievers are rejected, though they are "children after the flesh." All are not Israel - Not in the favor of God. Who are lineally descended of Israel.
ESV. Even though many Jews have failed to believe, God’s promise to them has not failed, for there was never a promise that every Jewish person would be saved. It was never the case that all the physical children of Abraham were truly part of the people of God, for Gen. 21:12 teaches that the line of promise is traced through Isaac not Ishmael.
Womack. Paul presented the pitiful picture of the Jewish nation rejecting Jesus. He adds that some Jews did accept Jesus – a few. Paul was a Jew. The true Jew is not a physical but a spiritual Jew. He made the same point in Romans 2:28-29, which says, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Paul had expressed such strong compassion for the Jewish race that he was willing to be damned in their place if that would produce their salvation. As he said in Romans 9:2, he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow.” According to Romans 9:4-5, one reason he intensely longed for the salvation of the Jews was because he was a Jew and was aware that Christ was the Jewish Messiah.
How ironic it was that Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not (John 1:11). Here Paul related the reasoning that had enabled him to cope with the Jews’ tragic rejection of Jesus. The promises made to Abraham and his descendants were not made to his physical descendants but to his spiritual seed (Romans 9:6-8). Therefore, the true people of God have not rejected their Messiah. There is a body of believers comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles, and they are the true Israel of God. To back this up, Paul cited the two Old Testament examples of Isaac (Romans 9:9) and Jacob (Romans 9:10-13) to illustrate how the blessing of God was not passed on through the normal method of inheritance but through election. Paul expressed these thoughts twice before in this epistle, and he used the same reasoning in his letter to the Galatians (Romans 2:28-29, 4:12-16; Galatians 3:16, and 6:16).
“Nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”
AMP. “And they are not all the children of Abraham because they are by blood his descendants. No, the promise was that your descendants will be called and counted through the line of Isaac even though Abraham had an older son.”
Seemuth. Paul describes people who, though descendants of Israel, are not among the people who embrace the promise of God. So, while some within national Israel have rejected Messiah, others embrace Him. This should not be surprising: Israel’s history has worked like this all along; Ishmael did to produce the nation of promise (the seed). The promised people of God have come through Isaac, not Ishmael.
Wesley. Neither because they are lineally the seed of Abraham, will it follow that they are all children of God - This did not hold even in Abraham’s own family, and much less in his remote descendants. But God then said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called - That is, Isaac, not Ishmael, shall be called thy seed; that seed to which the promise is made.
Womack. A true Jew isn’t a physical descendant of Abraham but a spiritual one who has the same faith that Abraham had. Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s firstborn, and the firstborn traditionally received the greater inheritance. But Isaac was the son of promise and, in God’s eyes (which are the only eyes that count), the only covenant child (Genesis 22:2). Genesis 21:12 is the Old Testament verse being cited.
“That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”
AMP. “That is to say, it is not the children of the body of Abraham who are made God’s children, but it is the offspring to whom the promise applies that shall be counted as Abraham’s true descendants.”
Seemuth. The key word is “promise.” God’s promise, His Word, will be fulfilled to the benefit of all humanity. Fleshly descent does not determine the path of blessing from God. Those who embrace God’s promises by faith establish the place of God’s work in the world. So, the children of promise take prominence in God’s economy. When God promises a child through Sarah, it was accomplished! Abraham believed God for this promise and was considered righteous as are result. God’s promises make the difference in this world. Fleshly descent or religious tradition are irrelevant in terms of God’s plan of salvation for humanity. Belief in the promised Messiah is paramount.
ESV. The words “children of God” show that Paul is thinking of salvation and hence he is not thinking merely of physical blessings given to Israel.
Wesley. That is, Not the children, … — As if he had said, this is a clear type of things to come; showing us, that in all succeeding generations, not the children of the flesh, the lineal descendants of Abraham, but the children of the promise, they to whom the promise is made, that is, believers, are the children of God. Genesis 21:12.
Womack. Isaac, through whom the Jewish nation descended, was not the first born of Abraham. But he was the promised son through whom God would bless all nations of the earth (Genesis 21:12 and 22:18). Likewise, Abraham’s true children are not physical descendants but those who have received (believed) the promise.
Today, God doesn’t count as His children those of the flesh, i.e., those that work to achieve righteousness by their own efforts or who work to serve God through their own strength. His true children are those born of the Spirit.
Paul cited six Old Testament references to make his point that God’s promises to Abraham and his “seed” were made to the spiritual offspring of Abraham, not the physical. First, Isaac was not the firstborn son of Abraham. The eldest would normally be entitled to the birthright and blessing, yet Isaac obtained both the birthright and blessing because he was chosen by God. Next, Jacob was not the firstborn either, yet he was chosen by God. These two examples confirm that God’s promise was not inherited by birth. Paul also pointed out that before Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, were born, God told Rebekah that the elder would serve the younger. They weren’t born, and they had not done good or evil which caused God to make the choice he did. The blessing of Abraham was not obtained by individual performance but was based solely on God’s choosing by grace.
“For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.”
AMP. “For this is what the promise said: “About this time [next year] I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Seemuth. When God promised a so through Sarah, it was accomplished. Abraham believed God for this promise and was considered righteous as a result. Fleshly descent or religious tradition are irrelevant in terms of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.
Gen. 10: 14,18. The promise was not given to Hagar (Gen. 16) but was specifically given to Sarah and her offspring. The birth of Esau and Jacob is further evidence that God did not promise that every person of Jewish descent would be saved, for they had the same father and mother and were twins, and yet God chose Jacob and not Esau.
Wesley. For this is the word of the promise — By the power of which Isaac was conceived, and not by the power of nature. Not, whosoever is born of thee shall be blessed, but, at this time - Which I now appoint. I will come, and Sarah shall have a son — And he shall inherit the blessing. Genesis 18:10.
Womack. This quote is Genesis 18:10: “And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him,” and Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
“And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac.”
AMP. “And not only that, but this too: Rebecca conceived two sons under exactly the same circumstances by our forefather Isaac.”
Seemuth. One may conclude from the story of Abraham’s experience and dealings with Isaac and Ishmael that God’s choice was made according to human factors. That is, something in Ishmael was rejected Therefore, an alternate path had to be found. But Paul subdues such speculation with another story of God’s election. God choose the path of redemption (Gen. 25: 21-24). God chose the younger twin over the elder. Each child represented a nation. God chose one nation, and not another, to establish His redemptive plan through.
Wesley. And that God’s blessing does not belong to all the descendants of Abraham, appears not only by this instance, but by that of Esau and Jacob, who was chosen to inherit the blessing, before either of them had done good or evil. The apostle mentions this to show, that neither were their ancestors accepted through any merit of their own.
That the purpose of God according to election might stand — Whose purpose was, to elect or choose the promised seed. Not of works — Not for any preceding merit in him he chose. But of him that called — Of his own good pleasure who called to that privilege whom he saw good.
Womack. The principle of God’s chosen heir not being just the firstborn, but the son of promise, wasn’t limited to Isaac. It was also the case with Jacob, Isaac’s second-born son.
Inheritance isn’t passed by physical or natural rules. It is by God’s election. Salvation isn’t inherited by our works. We must be born again.
“For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.
AMP. “And though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything either good or bad, so that God’s purpose - His choice and His election - would stand, not because of works done by either child, but because of the plan of Him who calls them.
Seemuth. God’s call and His promises are preeminent. It is not whether one works but whether one responds to the call of God. Personal embrace of the Savior depends upon God’s plan of election of the people through whom the mercy comes. At the time of Paul’s writing, this channel of salvation was the Gentiles – a scandalous choice. God’s calling takes precedence over human convention and culture.
ESV. God did not choose Jacob based on anything in Jacob or Esau’s life but to achieve the fulfillment of God’s purpose of election. God’s promise will be fulfilled in our life because it depends on His will. The contrast between works and calling shows that salvation is in view, not merely the historical destiny of Israel as a nation.
Womack. The Lord chose Jacob before he was born. It wasn’t according to any effort of his part that he was chosen. It was His election. Human effort or work does not obtain the blessing of God.
These Old Testament examples show that the children of Abraham were not his physical descendants, Instead, they were chosen by God before they were born. God’s election is not based on birth or performance.
Some have interpreted this verse and Malachi 1:2-3 in Romans 9:13 as an example of extreme predestination. They reason that Esau was hated by God before he was born. Therefore, God predestines some for damnation before they were born, and some are elected to salvation before they are born. So, people have no choice in the matter. These verses are not saying this.
God’s predestination is based on His foreknowledge. Only those whom God foreknew would accept Him have been elected and predestinated. God did not force Jacob and Esau to make the choices they made. But through His foreknowledge, He was able to foresee who would respond to Him.
Election and predestination are based on God’s foreknowledge. This is seen in 1 Peter 1:2, which says we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” God does not choose people independent of their free will. Instead, through His foreknowledge, He knows who will choose Him, and those are the individuals He elects to be His own.
“It was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”
AMP. “It was said to her that the elder son, Esau, should serve the younger son, Jacob.”
Wesley. The elder — Esau. Shall serve the younger — Not in person, for he never did, but in his posterity. Accordingly, the Edomites were often brought into subjection by the Israelites. Genesis 25:23.
Seemuth. At the time of the writing of Romans much of national Israel had rejected Christ and so was not among the people of promise. In other words, they were in the same place as the descendants of Esau. This idea would be tough for any Jew to accept. But the evidence of Jewish unbelief can lead to no other conclusion.
ESV. The promise given to Rebekah (Gen. 25:23) was that God had chosen the younger Jacob over the older Esau. One of the themes in Romans 9-11 is that God works in surprising ways, so that no one can ever presume upon his grace.
Womack. Rebecca had problems during her pregnancy. She asked the Lord what was happening, and the Lord said, “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).
God’s calling and election is according to grace and not performance or human effort. But it does not show that the Lord predestines some to blessing and others to cursing. All people have the right to choose for themselves (Deuteronomy 30:19).
God selected Jacob and his lineage to pass the blessing of Abraham through. God did not choose Esau to be cursed. Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34), thereby bringing God’s curse on himself.
There is no Scriptural record that Esau ever served Jacob, as individuals. However, Esau’s posterity (Edomites, Genesis 32:3) did serve Jacob’s posterity (1 Chronicles 18:13). Although Paul referenced the birth of Jacob and Esau, the prophecy given to Rebekah referred to the nations that came from these men.
“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
AMP. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated - held in relative disregard in comparison with My feeling for Jacob.
Wesley. As it is written — With which word in Genesis, spoken so long before, that of Malachi agrees. I have loved Jacob — With a peculiar love; that is, the Israelites, the posterity of Jacob. And I have, comparatively, hated Esau - That is, the Edomites, the posterity of Esau. But observe, 1. This does not relate to the person of Jacob or Esau — 2. Nor does it relate to the eternal state either of them or their posterity. Thus far the apostle has been proving his proposition, namely, that the exclusion of a great part of the seed of Abraham, yea, and of Isaac, from the special promises of God, was so far from being impossible, that, according to the scriptures themselves, it had happened. He now introduces and refutes an objection. Malachi 1:2-3.
ESV. The citation of Mal. 1:2-3 also show that God set his saving love on Jacob and rejected (hated) Esau. “Hated” is startling, but as a sinner Esau did not deserve to be chosen by God, who remains just in not choosing everyone. The salvation of any one at all comes only from God’s mercy.
Womack. Some say, from this verse and Romans 9:10-12, that individuals have no choice in whether they serve God or not. Some are predestined to salvation and others to damnation. But all people have a choice as to their relationship with the Lord (Romans 10:13).
From birth, we have callings and gifts different from each other. We don’t have a choice as to what the Lord calls us to do. Jacob was chosen before his birth to be the one through whom Abraham’s blessing would flow. But Esau wasn’t predestined to be hated. God had good plans for him, just not plans for him to be the one through whom the blessing of Abraham passed through.
Esau rebelled against God. He despised his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) and married outside of God’s commands (Genesis 26:34-35). Esau hated Jacob (Genesis 27:41), who was blessed of the Lord, thereby bringing the curse of Genesis 12:3 on himself.
The Old Testament passage this verse is quoting is from Malachi 1:2-3. The Lord didn’t say he loved Jacob and hated Esau when they were still in Rebecca’s womb. This was spoken hundreds of years after their deaths. The Lord had different callings on these twins’ lives that were according to His grace and not their works.
Esau could have chosen to walk with God and therefore been blessed by Him. Malachi 1:2-3 . God did not hate Esau at birth. He rejected the nation of Edom and chose the nation of Israel. Jacob went on to become a mighty man of God, and Esau despised the things of God. God’s choice of Jacob didn’t cause this to happen. This quotation from Malachi simply confirms that God’s foreknowledge was accurate. Jacob was called to a higher position than his brother, Esau, before they were born, but that does not display any rejection of Esau on God’s part.
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the 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.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
AMP. 14 What shall we conclude then? Is there injustice upon God’s part? Certainly not!
15 For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion (pity) on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.]
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in [dealing with] you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over.
18 So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses), and He hardens (makes stubborn and unyielding the heart of) whomever He wills.
Seemuth. God’s mercy is the unifying theme of chapters 9-11. That mercy is extended through an elect people to bring forth His presence on earth. The Holy Spirit intends that we see God’s grace. God’s mercy is that aspect of His love that helps the miserable one, just as His grace is that aspect of His love that moves Him to forgive the guilty. God shows compassion towards those who have broken his law (Dan. 9:9, I Tim. 1:13, 16; Ro. 9:14-18). God’s mercy on the miserable extends beyond withheld punishment which keeps us from hell. His mercy does more; it gets us into heaven. God’s mercy heals the blind (Mt. 9:27; 20:29) and lepers (Lu. 17:11). Because He is merciful, He expects us to be merciful (Mt. 5:7; James 1:27).
Paul stands against the argument that God is unjust. God’s election was made to provide us mercy, not mete out justice. It’s the nature of God to provide mercy. Ex. 33:19. His provision for salvation is totally dependent on God alone. God’s exhibited power was for Israel’s deliverance, not to judge Pharoah. The worldwide proclamation of God’s name was to make His mercy known.
ESV. Salvation, then, is ultimately not based on human free will or effort but depends entirely on God’s merciful will. Even the wrath of man praises God (Ps. 76:10).
Wesley. Therefore, is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs — It is not the effect either of the will or the works of man, but of the grace and power of God. The will of man is here opposed to the grace of God, and man’s running, to the divine operation. And this general declaration respects not only Isaac and Jacob, and the Israelites in the in the time of Moses, but likewise all the spiritual children of Abraham, even to the end of the world.
Moreover — God has an indisputable right to reject those who will not accept the blessings on his own terms. And this he exercised in the case of Pharaoh; to whom, after many instances of stubbornness and rebellion, he said, as it is recorded in scripture, For this very thing have I raised thee up - That is, Unless thou repent, this will surely be the consequence of my raising thee up, making thee a great and glorious king, that my power will be shown upon thee, (as indeed it was, by overwhelming him and his army in the sea,) and my name declared through all the earth - As it is at this day. Perhaps this may have a still farther meaning. It seems that God was resolved to show his power over the river, the insects, other animals, (with the natural causes of their health, diseases, life, and death,) over the meteors, the air, the sun, (all of which were worshipped by the Egyptians, from whom other nations learned their idolatry,) and at once over all their gods, by that terrible stroke of slaying all their priests, and their choicest victims, the firstborn of man and beast; and all this with a design, not only to deliver his people Israel, (for which a single act of omnipotence would have sufficed,) but to convince the Egyptians, that the objects of their worship were but the creatures of Jehovah, and entirely in his power, and to draw them and the neighboring nations, who should hear of all these wonders, from their idolatry, to worship the one God. For the execution of this design, (in order to the display of the divine power over the various objects of their worship, in variety of wonderful acts, which were at the same time just punishments for their cruel oppression of the Israelites,) God was pleased to raise to the throne of an absolute monarchy, a man, not whom he had made wicked on purpose, but whom he found so, the proudest, the most daring and obstinate of all the Egyptian princes; and who, being incorrigible, well deserved to be set up in that situation, where the divine judgments fell the heaviest. Exodus 9:16.
So then — That is, accordingly, he does show mercy on his own terms, namely, on them that believe. And whom he willeth — Namely, them that believe not. He hardeneth — Leaves to the hardness of their hearts.
Womack. Paul affirms that God is never unfair in His dealings with man. God can extend mercy to an individual without treating others unjustly. Just as in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20:1-16, God treats everyone fairly. To some He chooses to give extra mercy. Does that mean He is unjust? Not. If God chooses to hold individuals accountable for their freely made choices, He is justified to do so. In Luke 13:1-9, Jesus mentioned those whom Pilate had killed and mingled their blood with the sacrifices, and the people on whom the tower in Siloam fell and were killed. He raised the question (Luke 13:2 and 4), “Were these people worse sinners than others to suffer this judgment?” He said that all deserved such judgment, but God in His mercy had spared them. He then shared the parable about the man with an unproductive tree in his vineyard. He intended to cut down this dead tree and replace it, but the vine dresser interceded for the tree. The owner then gave extra time to see if he could revive it. Likewise, all people deserve judgment, but through such things as intercession, God may show extra mercy to certain individuals. God has never judged anyone without being righteous in doing so. Likewise, He has never extended mercy to anyone that made His treatment of someone else unfair.
Womack. The Father is totally within His rights to show mercy to whom He wills (Matthew 20:1-15). This verse doesn’t say the Lord curses whomever He chooses. No one has ever come under God’s judgment unjustly.
Womack. Some leaders see the great things that God accomplishes through them, and think, “God is using me because of my great faithfulness.” NO. God has never had a qualified man or women working for Him yet. God is a lot more merciful than we are faithful.
Womack. This verse is referencing Exodus 9:16.
Womack. The Scripture does say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But it also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 32; and 9:34). Pharaoh refused to obey God thus hardening his heart, and after he made his choice and path, God enforced his decision. Pharaoh proclaimed himself to be god and demanded worship. The Spirit of the Lord convicted him about this. But when he hardened his heart and persisted in unbelief and rebellion, the Father still used Pharoah’s choice to bring glory to Himself. And He wasn’t unjust in doing so. Pharaoh exercised free will.
Some wrongly draw conclusions from this verse that God predetermines everything in every person’s life – which negates free will. NO. Pharaoh had every opportunity to obey the Father.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
AMP. “You will say to me then, “Why does He still blame me for sinning? For whom, including myself has ever resisted His will and purpose?”
Wesley. Why doth he still find fault — The particle still is strongly expressive of the objector’s sour, morose murmuring.
For whom hath resisted his will — The word his likewise expresses his surliness and aversion to God, whom he does not even deign to name.
Womack. The third-party complaint that Paul refutes here is a gross misstatement of Paul assertion. This same as in Romans 6:1 where he said, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Paul knew someone falsely claim that his teaching on grace advocated for increased sin; therefore, he articulated their misstatement and then refuted it. He “drew the sting.” Likewise, he articulates a third-party complaint or wrong interpretation of his statements and then to counter it or answered the imaginary misstatement.
“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” See Is. 29:16; 45:9.
AMP. “But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? Will what is formed say to him that formed it, why have you made me thus?”
Seemuth. Paul refutes the third-party complaint by referring to Is. 29:16. Pharoah’s personal sinfulness was set before he arose to power, and he kept it up. Ro. 1:18-32 shows this. Sin #1: Refusing to acknowledge God as the Revealed Creator. #2.
Womack. Paul assertion is also the point made in the book of Job. God never explained Himself to Job as Job insisted, He do. Instead, He rebuked Job for his “know-it-all” attitude (Job 38:18). God asked Job what right he had to maintain his own integrity at the expense of God’s (Job 40:8). Job got the message when God spoke to him from a whirlwind, and he humbled himself (Job 42:2-6). Paul’s message should draw the same response from us.
“Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”
AMP. “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?”
Seemuth. Paul draws from Jer. 18: 1-12. There the lump of clay raises a clenched fist to the potter. It’s like men. The ones who should worship Him scorn Him. God has used nations to do His will.
Wesley. Hath not the potter power over the clay — And much more hath not God power over his creatures, to appoint one vessel, namely, the believer, to honor, and another, the unbeliever, to dishonor? If we survey the right which God has over us, in a more general way, regarding his intelligent creatures, God may be considered in two different views, as Creator, Proprietor, and Lord of all: or, as their moral Governor, and Judge. God, as sovereign Lord and Proprietor of all, dispenses his gifts or favors to his creatures with perfect wisdom, but by no rules or methods of proceeding that we are acquainted with. The time when we shall exist, the country where we shall live, our parents, our constitution of body and turn of mind; these, and numberless other circumstances, are doubtless ordered with perfect wisdom, but by rules that lie quite out of our sight. But God’s methods of dealing with us, as our Governor and Judge, are dearly revealed and perfectly known; namely, that he will finally reward every man according to his works: "He that believeth shalt be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." Therefore, though "He hath mercy on whom he wills, and whom he wills he hardens," that is, suffers to be hardened in consequence of their obstinate wickedness; yet his is not the will of an arbitrary, capricious, or tyrannical being. He wills nothing but what is infinitely wise and good; and therefore, his will is a most proper rule of judgment. He will show mercy, as he hath assured us, to none but true believers, nor harden any but such as obstinately refuse his mercy. Jeremiah 18:6-7
Womack. In Jeremiah 18:3-6, God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house to learn a lesson. The potter was making a vessel; it was marred, so he remade it. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah, “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
From this illustration, some people have drawn a wrong conclusion that the Lord creates some people evil and predestined to a life of damnation. However, a closer look at the Jeremiah passage shows that God does not predestine people to hell. First, the potter started to create a good vessel, but the clay was marred. Whose fault was that? It wasn’t the potter’s fault. The clay was faulty. The potter took this imperfect clay, did not discard it, and refashioned it into another vessel that may not have been as worth as his original design but was still useful.
The Lord does not create certain individuals for destruction. However, some become marred by their own choices. Instead of removing them from the earth, the Lord endures (Romans 9:22) their atrocities. He may put them in positions of authority, such as Pharaoh, so He can manifest His power and glory through them. God can use someone who has rejected Him, in the same way a potter takes marred clay and finds a use for it.
From the context of Jeremiah’s experience with the potter, the Lord acts in conformity to individual’s will. In Jeremiah 18:7-10, when God acts in evil or good toward a nation, if that nation repents, God will change His plans. Man’s choice influences God’s choice.
“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”
AMP. “What if God, although willing to show His [terrible] wrath and to make His power known, has tolerated with great patience the objects of His wrath [which are] prepared for destruction?”
TPT. And in the same way, although God has every right to unleash his anger and demonstrate his power, yet he is extremely patient with those who essence wrath – vessels prepared for destruction.
ESV. God created a world in which both his wrath and mercy would be shown. Indeed, his mercy shines against the backdrop of his just wrath, showing thereby that the salvation of any person is due to the marvelous grace and love of God. If this is difficult to understand, it is because people mistakenly think God owes them salvation.
Seemuth. Such patience and longsuffering reveals God’s ultimate plan: to bring mercy. As such, it is a glorious plan laid before the foundation of the world. The targets of mercy are those who embrace the call to repentance and faith in Jesus. The sins of others do not restrict the working of God’s mercy; rather God uses the sins of others to bring forth His mercy. Such is the glory of God.
Wesley. What if God, being willing — Referring to Romans 9:18-19. That is, although it was now his will, because of their obstinate unbelief, to show his wrath - Which necessarily presupposes sin. And to make his power known — This is repeated from the seventeenth verse. Yet endured — As he did Pharaoh. With much longsuffering — Which should have led them to repentance. The vessels of wrath — Those who had moved his wrath by still rejecting his mercy. Fitted for destruction — By their own willful and final impenitence. Is there any injustice in this?
Womack. God endured with much longsuffering these individuals fitted for destruction. They were in rebellion toward God before the Lord established their own choices and turned them into vessels of wrath to accomplish His will.
“And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.”
AMP. “And what if He thus purposes to make known and show the wealth of His glory in dealing with the vessels or objects of His mercy which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”
Wesley. That he might make known — What if by showing such longsuffering even to "the vessels of wrath," he did the more abundantly show the greatness of his glorious goodness, wisdom, and power, on the vessels of mercy; on those whom he had himself, by his grace, prepared for glory. Is this any injustice?
Womack. This is seen in the Exodus story. The Lord endured Pharoah who oppressed Israel with much long-suffering. By allowing Pharaoh to put His people in such pressure, it was even more glorious when the Lord used Moses to bring Egypt to its knees.
“Even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.
AMP. “Even including we whom He has called, not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles heathen.
ESV. In His grace and mercy, He has brought both Jews and Gentiles into salvation.
Wesley. Even us — Here the apostle comes to the other proposition, of grace free for all, whether Jew or gentile. Of the Jews — This he treats of, Romans 9:25. Of the gentiles — Treated of in the same verse.
Womack. In Romans 9:6, Paul stated the truth that the “people of God” are those who have faith in Christ. Nationality no longer defines who “the people of God” are. Here he quotes (Romans 9:25-29) two Old Testament prophets four times to illustrate that same truth.
“As He says also in Hosea:
“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.” (Ho. 2:23)
AMP. “Just as He says in Hosea: those who were not My people I will call My people, and her who was not beloved I will call My beloved.”
See Ho. 1:10: Is. 1:9; 10: 22-23
And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people; they shall be called sons of the living God.’
Wesley. There shall they be called the sons of God — So that they need not leave their own country and come to Judea. Hosea 1:10
“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.”
This verse could read, “only a remnant shall be saved.” That’s Paul’s point. His next reference from Isaiah (Romans 9:29) complements this one; it stresses that only a few Jews are God’s people.
Wesley. “But Isaiah testifies, that (as many gentiles will be accepted, so) many Jews will be rejected; that out of all the thousands of Israel, a remnant only shall be saved. This was spoken originally of the few that were saved from the ravage of Sennacherib’s army.” Isaiah 10:22-23
“For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
Womack. If I had read this in Paul’s day, I would have thought that the Lord’s return was imminent. 2,000 years have passed and still the Lord has not returned. It is closer today than when Paul wrote this.
Wesley. For he is finishing or cutting short his account — In rigorous justice, will leave but a small remnant. There will be so general a destruction, that but a small number will escape.
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.”
As Isaiah had said before — Namely, Isaiah 1:9, concerning those who were besieged in Jerusalem by Rezin and Pekah. Unless the Lord had left us a seed — Which denotes, 1. The present paucity: 2. The future abundance. We had been as Sodom — So that it is no unexampled thing for the main body of the Jewish nation to revolt from God and perish in their sin.
Womack. This is from Isaiah 1:9. If the Lord hadn’t shown mercy upon Israel, they would have been destroyed just like Sodom and Gomorrah were (Genesis 19:24-25). That would be true of all of us if we only got what we deserved. Praise God we don’t get justice. Through Jesus we get mercy and grace.
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith.
What shall we say then — What is to be concluded from all that has been said but this, That the gentiles, who followed not after righteousness - Who a while ago had no knowledge of, no care or thought about, it. Have attained to righteousness — Or justification. Even the righteousness which is by faith. This is the first conclusion we may draw from the preceding observations. The second is, that Israel - The Jews Although following the law of righteousness - That law which, duly used, would have led them to faith, and thereby to righteousness. Have not attained to the law of righteousness — To that righteousness or justification which is one great end of the law.
This is another of Paul’s radical statements. How can people who are not seeking righteousness become righteous? The answer lies in God’s grace. By grace, God has provided righteousness for all people, regardless of their actions. If people believe and receive this gift, God reckons them righteous. The Gentiles did not seek God (Ephesians 4:17-19 and 1 Peter 4:3), yet the Gentiles accepted God’s gift of salvation. Most Jews were seeking after God but rejected His gift of righteousness by faith. Why? Paul said in Romans 9:32-33. People who don’t understand God’s grace will be confused that a person who hasn’t lived a morally good life can be righteous in the sight of God, while a morally good person can be unrighteous in His sight. Righteousness is based on faith, not actions.
“But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.”
There are two approaches to obtain right standing (righteousness) with God. One is to try and earn right standing with God through our performances. This verse says that Israel tried this way. This approach will always fail because we fail. We may be better than someone else, but we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The only approach that works to gain righteousness is the way of faith. We can’t earn God’s favor; we receive it as a gift by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“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.”
Womack. Why is it that a person who is seeking to please God can be rejected, while a person who has not sought God comes into a righteous relationship with Him? Paul answered that the answer is faith and its object. The Jews were zealous (Romans 10:2) for the things of God, but their faith was in themselves. They trusted that they could earn God’s favor by their acts of righteousness. On the other hand, the Gentiles had no holiness to trust in. So, when they heard the Gospel that Jesus paid man’s sin debt, they accepted His “gift” of salvation, while the religious Jews could not abandon their trust in themselves for salvation. The problem exists today. Millions of church people try to live holy lives, but they do not have faith in Jesus as their Savior. If they were to stand before God and He asked them what they had done to deserve salvation, they would recount their acts of holiness: church attendance, financial giving, etc. Regardless of how good they are compared to others, they come short of the perfect standard of God. The only response that would grant them entrance to heaven would be that their only claim to salvation is by faith in Jesus as their Savior.
There is a difference between works of faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11) and works of the Law (Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, and 10). The difference is not in the action but in the attitude. A work of the Law is some act of righteousness or holiness that is done to earn God’s favor. A work of faith may be the same act of righteousness or holiness, but it is done as a labor of love (1 Thessalonians 1:3). It is not done to obtain favor but in gratitude for the favor that has been extended to us in Christ. Works of the Law and faith in Jesus are opposites (Romans 11:6).
Jesus is the “stumbling stone.” God has placed Jesus in the path of every person. Those who fail to put their trust in Jesus because they trust in themselves will stumble and fall into hell, while those who believe in Him will never be ashamed (Romans 9:33).
Wesley. And wherefore have they not? Is it because God eternally decreed, they should not? There is nothing like this to be met with but agreeable to his argument the apostle gives us this good reason for it, because they sought it not by faith - Whereby alone it could be attained. But as it were — In effect, if not professedly, by works. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone — Christ crucified.
“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.”
Womack. Those who are offended at Jesus trust in themselves. They feel they are acceptable to God because they are holy. But all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). This’s why religious people have always persecuted true Christians.
Paul quoted the last part of Isaiah 28:16. Paul substituted the words “be ashamed” for Isaiah’s words, “make haste.” In the context of war, making haste is descriptive of a person who has been shamed in battle.