Romans 9:1-16 Explained in Simple Terms

Paul begins Romans 9 answering objections posed by Romans 8. If God’s love, promises and word to His people cannot fail, how is it Israel rejected their Messiah?

After all, was not Israel His chosen people?

Paul’s answer is short and sweet in verse 6: For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

God’s promise to be Israel’s God, while they, in turn, would be His people, extended only to those Israelites who were of the promised seed (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).

Being born of Abraham’s carnal seed is not enough.

One must be born of the promised spiritual seed.

And who, exactly, comprises that promised spiritual seed……?

……Those to whom God alone has decided, in eternity, to be the children of the promise.

They comprise both Jews and Gentiles.

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus……And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise…….. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise….. (Galatians 3:26, 29; 4:28).

God’s decision as to who, exactly, He would Elect was made without any counsel of men, without taking into account any foreseen good in them, including foreseen faith and/or obedience.

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid (Romans 9:11-14).

Please take special note of verse 14. Paul asks a rhetorical question. He knows there is no unrighteousness in God. But because he clearly understands this biblical truth which proclaims our holy God determines a person’s destiny before that person has actually done anything to deserve/merit Heaven, (while at the same time denying Heaven to another who has yet to prove he is unworthy of salvation), seems to the average man’s sense of justice quite outrageous, unrighteous, and downright evil.

It is here we discern Paul is not taking the common position which is held by many Christians: the position which declares foreseen faith the cause of election.

For if that were Paul’s position, there would be no possibility of accusing God of injustice.

For then justice would be served had God denied salvation to Esau whom God foresaw would reject Christ.

Again, justice would be served had God rewarded Jacob with election unto salvation due to foreseen faith in Christ.

But such was not the case, which is why those who refuse to believe Paul’s teaching accuse He teaches an unjust God.

These hard, deep and mysterious truths concerning God’s free election bring accusatory cries toward all who preach it today.

But Paul explains in the next two verses why it is impossible this truth is unjust:

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (verses 15-16).

Please note this doctrine was taught Moses. Paul simply expounds its meaning in clarifying terms to the present situation.

Furthermore, please note man’s alleged ‘free will’ is completely discounted as a cause of Election.

The cause of Election is God’s sovereign will of good pleasure, free from any influence from man’s will or merit, foreseen or otherwise. Paul stresses the fact that Jacob and Esau were both in the exact same condition when God announced whom He had elected:
• Both in the womb of the same mother, the seed of the same father
• Both sinners with sin inherited from Adam’s transgression
• Neither had yet personally committed evil deeds nor performed good deeds

That being the case, God was still able to make a determination as to which brother was Elect.

He could do so because His will of good pleasure is not bound to any outside influences whatsoever.

God’s will has no higher cause.

The cause of Jacob’s election was God’s eternal purpose to save Him, contingent on nothing meritorious, favorable or deserving in Jacob.

Had God’s election of Jacob been contingent on Jacob’s foreseen merit (such as faith in Christ), Paul would never have neglected to mention such extraordinarily pertinent information.

By clearly and explicitly stating election is not of works, Paul is negating man’s potential merit as a cause.

This issue of merit – whether foreseen faith, or foreseen obedience – having nothing whatever to do with God’s choosing one sinner over another sinner, causes Paul to readily admit it raises the ire and animosity of many to whom he preaches this truth.

The righteous character of God is often called into question (Romans 9:14).

Loud cries of injustice are heard.

But then Paul refers us back to Moses:

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

God’s sovereign will of choice is seen in the Old Testament.

There are numerous testimonies to the fact Israel was chosen by God over all other nations.

For example: For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deut. 14:2).

The list of Scriptures attesting to this is extensive.

Paul was certainly aware of Israel’s unique status with the Lord.

The question Paul answers in the introductory section of Romans 9 concerns the efficacy of God’s promises and the failure of Israel to fulfill those promises when they killed their Messiah.

Did God somehow fail to deliver on His promise to be their God and they His people? After all, they are now, for the most part, shut up in unbelief, no longer His people.

It is in verse 6, Paul explains they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

In other words, within the visible, professing nation of Israel are a remnant chosen by God to be with Him forever.

It is to these His promises pertained.

Here Paul lays the seed introducing the doctrine of spiritual Israel as the true Israel.

Not all Israelites are members of spiritual Israel.

Only those called by God’s effectual grace are considered His people.

Furthermore, because God’s plans and purposes are eternal in nature, we can state unequivocally it was always God’s purpose to form a spiritual nation specifically consisting of those effectually called by Him.

And this spiritual nation Paul calls ‘the Israel of God’ (Galatians 6:16).

And that spiritual nation, the true Israel of God, includes all Gentile believers, for Paul declares to the Gentile Galatians:

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise (Galatians 4:28).

This great truth contradicts the many errors of Dispensationalism.

By reviewing Exodus 33, we find Moses beseeching the Lord to show him His glory, to which the Lord responded:

19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

From this significant statement we discover God has always and will always be the sole arbiter upon whom merciful saving grace is bestowed.

The eternal truth which states the Lord will be gracious to whom He will be gracious explains the origin of merciful saving grace, as well as the cause of bestowing that merciful saving grace upon one pitiful, helpless, hopeless creature rather than another.

Grace is His, alone, to give.

And He gives that grace to many, but not all, because it pleases Him to do so.
There is no higher cause motivating God’s decision than that of His eternal, immutable will of good pleasure.

As Creator and Lord, it is God’s right as Sovereign to give or withhold that which man does not deserve or merit.

He gives merciful grace or withholds it as it pleases Him.

In so doing, He is unjust to no one.

He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:36).

Had God denied merciful grace to the deserving, He would rightly be accused of injustice.

But such is not the case. For all have sinned and deserve death.

And lest we forget what the Lord told Moses, let us always remember election reveals the glory of God.

The profound truth of God’s sovereign dispensing of saving grace is a source of great contention because it runs counter to finite man’s logic and sense of fair play.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).







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