“It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:16-18).
Continued from My Roman Holiday: Romans 8.
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel” (Romans 9:1-4). In insisting that salvation is for Gentiles as well as for Jews, Paul gave the appearance of being a traitor as far as Israel was concerned, but his heart anguished. So here the apostle protests his deep devotion to the Jewish people, and his conscience, in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, confirms the truth of what he is saying. The true Israel is not a matter of physical descent. God’s promise comprises those Jews who were selected by God and to whom He made a promise, designating them as His children. Paul refers to Isaac and Jacob to confirm the principle of God’s sovereign choice. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: ‘At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son’” (Romans 9:6-9).
Romans 8 and 9 are rich in God’s sovereignty, and confidence in God’s election, God’s foreknowledge and plan, means nothing less than complete faith in His righteousness and complete surrender to His sovereignty (Romans 9:14-29). Paul reminds his readers what God says to Moses in Exodus 33:19; that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion on whom He has compassion. Similarly, Jesus taught that no man can come to the Son unless His Father draws him (John 6:44). Paul comes right out and praises the richness of God’s redemptive plan. God doesn’t base redemption on natural privileges, nor does God play favorites. Salvation is not based on what man does, as He already knows what we will do, but what we do bears witness to His redemptive work within us. “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:16-18). And in Romans 11 Paul will elaborate on God’s restorative purpose that salvation might come to the Gentiles, thus provoking a jealousy, among the Jews, designed to bring Israel back to God.
The Potter and the clay (Romans 9:19-21) brings to mind the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat. The apostle rebukes the insolence objection of any creature who dares to find fault with His Creator. We are finite, burdened with sin, ignorance, and weakness, and we are in no position to talk back to God or question the wisdom or justice of His ways. Now, if God were like us, burdened and frail, maybe we might have an argument, but God is righteous and perfect in all His ways. Paul uses the illustration of the potter and the clay to assert the sovereignty of God. The potter is God, and the clay is sinful humanity. God isn’t damning people to hell arbitrarily; their own willfulness and unbelief has already condemned them. Then I come back to the parable: “Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:36-43).
Romans 9 is full of any number of other revelations and wonderful truths worth exploring, but I have written what I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me to write.
Romans 9 speaks into our lives today; Paul applies what was spoken in Hosea, which at the time looked forward to a restored Israel, to God’s call to the Gentiles. Perhaps, the restored Israel of Hosea always embraced the Gentiles; embraced a not too distant time of reconciliation that didn’t rely on human desire or effort, or even blood, but instead, on entirely on God’s mercy. As I embark on my Roman holiday, I look forward to the journey ahead. I found a story of the family of God in Romans 9. Until next time, and Romans 10!
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