Romans 9

Introduction: Chapters 9-11 take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful. Chapter 9 finds Paul focusing primarily on the sovereignty (absolute authority) of God.

I. Paul’s Sorrow Over His People (9:1-3)

A. Bolstered by expressions of deep sincerity, Paul affirms that his heart breaks over the lost condition of his Jewish kinsmen (1-2).

B. He goes so far as to say – using hyperbole – that if his own condemnation would bring about Jewish salvation, he would let himself be condemned (3).

II. The Jewish Advantage (9:4-5)

A. When one considers which group – Jew or Gentile – was in the best position to embrace the gospel and enjoy its attendant blessings, there is no question that the Jews held the advantage.

B. To the Jews belonged adoption (God chose them), glory (God dwelled among them), covenants (with many of their patriarchal ancestors), the law (given at Sinai), the service (Levitical priests), the promises (relating to Jesus), and Jesus himself (4-5).

III. God is Sovereign (9:6-29)

A. If the Jews had such an advantage, then what happened? Why did most of them reject Jesus? Paul’s answer: it wasn’t that God’s word failed (6); there’s more to it than that.

B. The statement at the end of verse 6 – “Not all who have descended from Israel belong to Israel” – is the simple answer and takes us back to statements Paul previously made (2:28-29; 4:11-12, 16). Not everyone who is a physical descendant of Abraham is a spiritual descendent of Abraham.

C. To further explain, Paul will take the reader on a tour of some Jewish history (9:7-13).

1. God chose to establish the Messianic lineage through Isaac, not through any of Abraham’s other children. Isaac was the son of promise (9:7-9).

2. This Messianic lineage also went through Jacob instead of Esau (9:10-13). These choices were by the sovereign will of God and had nothing to do with rewarding or punishing past behavior (9:11).

D. Paul addresses a possible objection, and in so doing gives the key verse of this chapter: “Is there injustice with God?” Absolutely not (9:14).

1. God may choose whomever he wants to choose in order to fulfill his purposes (9:15-18).

2. But these choices have nothing to do with eternal destiny, only the purposes of God in fulfilling his will.

E. Another possible objection: “If God chooses whomever he wills to fulfill his purposes, then how can those who aren’t chosen still be held accountable?” (9:19).

1. Paul’s startling answer is, “Who are you to question God?” (9:20). God has the sovereign right to work out his will without having to explain himself to his creation (9:21).

2. This does not imply that God is doing anything that is against his nature. It is only an affirmation of truth – that God does not owe us an explanation for what he does.

F. Paul affirms, by the use of another rhetorical question, that in his dealings with Jew and Gentile through history, God has shown wrath, power, patience, mercy, and glory – all to bring about the calling of Christians, Jew and Gentile, into one body (9:22-26).

G. And it is not as though God has decided arbitrarily that no Jews will be saved (a topic to which he will return later). There has always been and will always be a faithful remnant (9:27-29).

IV. Why Israel is Lost (9:30-33)

A. The point of the discussion is this: Gentiles were more accepting of the gospel because they were pursuing justification as a matter of faith (9:30). Jews tended to reject the gospel because they preferred to pursue justification as a matter of merit (9:31-32).

B. But because Jesus did not bring a merit-based system of justification, the Jews “stumbled over” him. That is, they rejected him (9:32-33).

What Exodus Teaches Us About God

Exodus does not merely tell the facts about the life of Moses, the ten plagues, the Jewish people escaping Egyptian slavery, and the Ten Commandments. It draws the reader ever closer to the God who made all that happen. What do we learn about God in the book of Exodus?

God Keeps His Promises. God had promised Abraham that he would make a great nation out his descendants (Gen. 12:2; 15:12-16). The book of Exodus emphasizes God’s intention to fulfill those promises (Exo. 2:24; 3:6–8, 15–17; 4:5; 6:2–8; and also 32:13).

God Wants to Be Close to His People. One of the themes emphasized in this great book is God’s presence among his people. He appears to Moses (3:1-4:17). He descends to the top of Sinai in the presence of the people (19:16-20). He shows himself to Moses, Aaron, and 72 leaders (24:9-11). He reveals his glory to Moses (34:1-10). Most of the second half of the book (chapters 25-40) focuses on the tabernacle, through which God promised to dwell among them (29:43-46; 40:34-38).

God Can Still Use Those Who Struggle With Self-Confidence. In chapters 3 and 4 Moses wrestles with accepting God’s charge to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. Moses saw nothing in himself that would qualify him for the task God set before him (3:11). He didn’t want to be asked a question that he could not answer (3:13). He was fearful that the people wouldn’t believe him if he did answer (4:1). He didn’t think he was eloquent enough to effectively communicate what God wanted (4:10). But God’s consistent responses changed the focus from who Moses was to who God is (3:12, 14; 4:5, 11-12), and that made all the difference.

God Deserves the Credit for Our Victories. We succeed only by the power he supplies (13:9, 14; Col. 1:29; Eph. 3:16). “Our God will fight for us” (14:14).

The Laws of God are Tests of Our Faith (15:25-26). How we relate to God’s commands tells us the nature of our relationship to God himself (cf. John 14:15; 15:14; 1 John 5:3). We cannot successfully argue that we have faith in God if we consistently live without regard for his instruction.

God Deserves to be Feared (20:18-21). Interestingly, Moses says in Exodus 20:20, “Do not fear” and then says that “the fear of him” should be before the people. The first reference to fear in that verse is connected to the end of verse 19. They were afraid that God was trying to kill them. Moses is telling them not to be afraid of that. The second reference is to the proper fear of God, which includes the dread of punishment for wrongdoing as well as the offering of reverence that God deserves. In that sense, it is proper to fear God (Prov. 1:7; Psa. 19:9; Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:11; Heb. 10:31; 12:28-29).

God Deserves to be Worshiped (20:22-26; 22:20, 29-30; 23:13-19). God instructed the people to build altars “in every place where I cause my name to be remembered” (20:22-26). In addition, there were three times each year that the people were to observe feasts: the feasts of Unleavened Bread, Harvest, and Ingathering (23:14-17). These celebrations reminded the people of God’s worthiness to be praised. All of the instructions regarding the tabernacle, its furniture, and the work of the priests (chapters 25-40) also stressed the importance of their worship to God (Psalm 18:3; 29:1-2; Rev. 4:11; 5:12-14).

There is tremendous practical value in studying the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:14-17). The book of Exodus reminds us to trust God, draw near to God, be confident in God, be grateful to God, obey God, fear God, and worship God. Those are reminders we need every day.