Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ROMANS - Chapter 9

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Romans 9

Supplemental Commentary:

1, 18 -- 11, 36 (continued)

5.  The Problem of the Rejection of Israel  9, 1 -- 11, 36

St. Paul has completed his exposition of the gospel of God active in the world for the sanctification and glorification of all who accept it in faith.  He now passes, without formal transition, to the sad condition of his own unbelieving people, the Jews.  He considers the problem of Jewish reprobation, first from the side of God (9, 6-29), and then according to its causes in the Jews (9, 30 -- 10, 21).  He concludes with the consoling prediction that Jewish unbelief is only temporary, and that in the end the Jews will be converted (11, 1-36).

9, 1-5:  Paul Grieves for the Jews.  An exordium to this section.    1 f.  In Christ: in union with Him, and as His minister.  I do not lie: a negative repetition of the thought for emphasis.  In the Holy Spirit: St. Thomas: "Because conscience sometimes errs unless set right by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul adds 'in the Spirit'."    3.  Anathema . . . from Christ: cf. note to text.  The statement may have been inspired by Ex. 32, 31 f.    4 f.  Privileges that make the Jews' unbelief a cause of deeper sadness.  Adoption as sons: in their election as God's chosen people.  The glory: the visible evidence of God's presence among His people, more especially the luminous cloud that enveloped the tabernacle (Ex. 40, 32).  The covenants: made with Abraham and Moses.  The legislation: the Mosaic Law.  The worship: of the true God by a divinely given ritual.  The promises: of the Messias.  The Fathers: cf. Heb. 11.  From whom is Christ: the greatest favor bestowed on them by God.  According to the flesh: in His human nature, an insinuation there is another nature in Christ.  Who is over all things, etc.: perhaps one of the most direct and forceful statements of the divinity of Christ in the New Testament.  It asserts the reality of His human nature, and the union of the human and divine natures in the one divine personality.

9, 6-13:  God's Election Depends on His Free Choice.  Paul first considers why it is that the Jews, already so highly privileged, have not recognized Jesus as the Messias.

6 f.  The word: the Messianic promises made by God to Israel.  Not all Israelites: there is a spiritual Israel in which these promises have been realized; and not all who are carnal descendants of Abraham belong to it.  Abraham had other children, but the promise descended only through Israel (Gen. 21, 1-12).    8-13.  Further proof is adduced from Genesis that the true posterity is that which inherited the promise by God's design.    9.  Isaac's birth was the result of divine intervention (Gen. 18, 10.14).    10-13.  In the case of Esau and Jacob the matter is even clearer; for the choice of Jacob was made before the birth of the children (Gen. 25, 21 f).  God's choice was not based on merit; it was a free choice.  The citation from Malachias (1, 2) shows the ultimate reason for God's choice was His love.

9, 14-18:  God Is Not Unjust.    14.  An objection emphatically rejected.    15.  No solution is offered for the proposed difficulty.  Rather a text (Ex. 33, 19) is cited as further evidence of the freedom of God in bestowing His favors.    16.  Faith is God's gift and not the product of man's will or effort.  Who runs: suggestive of exertion, striving.  God's showing mercy: the generous love of God extended to whom He wills.  This does not set aside the need of man's co-operating with the grace; here Paul is not dealing with that aspect of the doctrine.    17 f.  Cf. notes to text.

19, 19-24:  His Power and Glory.    19.  Another difficulty is raised.    20.  There is some insolence in the statement, and Paul answers it by pointing to man's need of modesty in dealing with God: his position is that of the clay in the hands of the potter.  Reply: The Greek term implies opposition, contradiction.  The one point of comparison in the illustration is the potter's liberty to make of the clay any kind of vessel he wishes.    22 f.  Here is applied the principle declared in 18.  The sentence is not completed, Paul leaving the apodosis to be supplied from the context.  Wishing: either "although He wishes," or "because He wishes."  In the first case God gives time for repentance to sinners though His justice impels Him to punish; in the second He restrains His hand for the present in order to vindicate His justice more strikingly on the day of judgment.  Ready for destruction: having prepared themselves by their wickedness for punishment.  Vessels of wrath . . . of mercy: the sinners and the just.

9, 25-29:  Witness of the Old Testament.    25 f.  These words from Osee refer to the promise of Israel's conversion, which Paul regards as a type of the Gentile's call to faith.  Cf. notes to text.    27 f.  The text from Isaias (10, 22 f) deals literally with the few to be saved from the judgment God would visit upon Israel.  The few foreshadowed the small number of Jews who embraced Christianity.  The word . . . in justice was that which brought the Assyrian invasion on Juda in punishment for unbelief.    29.  Isa. 1, 9 is another proof that the situation in the time of Isaias foreshadowed the incredulity of the Jews towards Christianity.

9, 30-33:  Jews' Refusal to Believe.  The first human reason for the reprobation of the Jews: they refused to believe and hence bear the responsibility and guilt.    30.  What then, etc.: what conclusion follows from the above premise?  The Gentiles: in Greek without the article, hence better "some Gentiles."  As a class the Gentiles had not pursued justice.    31.  On the other hand the Jews had pursued justice through the Mosaic Law.  But misunderstanding that Law they did not reach the law of justice, i.e., justice through the merits of Christ.    32.  Their misunderstanding consisted in thinking the works of the Law could merit this justice, whereas it is a gift of God independent of works and conditioned on faith.    33.  This had been foretold by Isaias (8, 14; 28, 16).  Rock: a term applied to God in the Old Testament: a solid foundation and source of confidence to those who believe; a cause of ruin to unbelievers.  Cf. 1 Pet. 2, 6.  It was Christ's death which scandalized the Jews (1 Cor. 1, 23; cf. Luke 2, 34).

Confraternity Bible:

Paul Grieves for the Jews  1 I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sadness and continuous sorrow in my heart.  3* For I could wish to be anathema myself from Christ for the sake of my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh; 4 who are Israelites, who have the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the legislation and the worship and the promises; 5 who have the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is, over all things, God blessed forever, amen.

God's Election Depends on His Free Choice  6* It is not that the word of God has failed.  For they are not all Israelites who are sprung from Israel; 7* nor because they are the descendants of Abraham, are they all his children; but
"Through Isaac shall thy posterity bear thy name." 
8* That is to say, they are not sons of God who are the children of the flesh, but it is the children of promise who are reckoned as posterity.  9* For this is a word of promise: "About this time I will come and Sara shall have a son."  10* And not she only but also Rebecca, who conceived by one man, Isaac our father; 11* for before the children had yet been born, or had done aught of good or evil, in order that the selective purpose of God might stand, 12* depending not on deeds, but on him who calls, it was said to her, "The elder shall serve the younger"; 13* as it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

God is Not Unjust  14* What then shall we say?  Is there injustice with God?  By no means!  15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will show pity to whom I will show pity."  16* So then there is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy.  17* For Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised thee up that I may show in thee my power, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth."  18* Therefore he has mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardens.

His Power and Glory  19 Thou sayest to me: Why then does he still find fault?  For who resists his will?  20 O man, who art thou to reply to God?  Does the object moulded say to him who moulded it: Why hast thou made me thus?  21* Or is not the potter master of his clay, to make from the same mass one vessel for honorable, another for ignoble use?  22 But what if God, wishing to show his wrath and to make known his power, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, ready for destruction, 23 that he might show the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he has prepared unto glory--- 24 even us whom he has called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?  25* As he says in Osee,
"A people not mine I will call my people, and an unbeloved, beloved, and her who had not obtained mercy, one who has obtained mercy. 

26* And it shall be in the place where it was said to them: you are not my people; there they shall be called sons of the living God."
27* And Isaias cries out concerning Israel,
"Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sands of the sea, the remnant shall be saved. 

28* For the Lord fulfills his word speedily in justice,

Because a speedy word will the Lord accomplish on earth."
29* And as Isaias foretold,
"Unless the Lord of Hosts had left us a posterity, we should have become as Sodom and should have been like Gomorrah."
Jews' Refusal to Believe  30 What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles who were not pursuing justice have secured justice, but a justice that is from faith; 31 but Israel, by pursuing a law of justice, has not attained to the law of justice.  32 And why?  Because they sought it not from faith, but as it were from works.  For they stumbled at the stumbling-stone, 33* as it is written,
"Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of scandal:

And whoever believes in him shall not be disappointed."


3: Anathema . . . from Christ: i.e., to be eternally separated from Christ.  So great was St. Paul's longing for the salvation of his own kinsmen that he would make any possible sacrifice to that end, even to being separated from Christ, if it were permissible to entertain such a desire.  That these words are merely an emphatic way of declaring his great devotion to his people and that they are not to be taken literally is evident from what St. Paul has said above, 8, 38.

6-12: St. Paul here teaches that the true Israelite is not merely the one who is physically descended from Abraham, but the one who has been the recipient of the divine promises, which God lavishes on whom He will, independently of personal merit. --- 7: Gen. 21, 12.

13: The hatred towards Esau here attributed to God may be explained in the sense of "loving less," in accord with a common Hebrew idiom.

14: The question here under consideration is the call to the faith, and not predestination to glory.  The efficacious call to the faith is a pure gratuity on God's part; man cannot merit it.  No one deserves it for "all have sinned and have need of the glory of God."  Cf. 3, 23.

16: Not of him who wills: the primary and ultimate factor in man's destiny is the activity of God's grace, which of course does not exclude man's co-operation.

17: For this very purpose: it is not to be understood that God's primary and express purpose in creating Pharaoh was to make a sinner out of him.  But God raised him up to rule the Egyptian people, and, foreseeing that Pharaoh would abuse grace and fall into sin, God decreed to use Pharaoh according to his demerits for the further manifestation of His own divine attributes and for the realization of the designs of His all-wise providence.

18: He hardens: i.e., by withdrawing divine grace in punishment of demerits.

21: St. John Chrysostom says, "St. Paul here so speaks not by way of denying free will but to show to what extent we are to submit to God.  For we should be no more ready to demand reasons from God than the clay vessel" (Hom. 16 on Romans).

25: Os. 2, 24.

26: Os. 1, 10.

27-28: Isa. 10, 22-23.

29: Isa. 1, 9.

33: Isa. 28, 16.