The following are my detailed notes from a series I taught on Romans fifteen years ago. I promised these to the people of Church of the Open Door. This year I’m teaching Romans 9 a chapter at a time, this is to supplement that teaching. If you’re not a part of Church of the Open Door, my next post will return to the typical posts you’ve received from edunderwood.com.
What About Israel?
Detail Notes of Romans 9
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).
In our modern minds chapters 9-11 may seem like a sudden history lesson, interesting to some, but irrelevant to the discussion at hand. “Israel, who cares?” Understanding the great and glorious themes of salvation and appreciating more than ever the mercies extended to us through grace (chapters 1-8), we could easily move straight to the practical application of those themes to our lives in chapters 12-16.
Not Paul. Guided by the Holy Spirit Himself, the apostle to the Gentiles digresses into a discussion of his own people, the Jews who had for the most part failed to accept the salvation offered in the Gospel, even though they were God’s chosen race and it was presented to the Jew first (1:16-17).
To his readers at Rome, this was a problem. The original believers in Rome were all Jews, but by this time Gentile Christians were outnumbering them I the assembly. There must have been tension. Perhaps a tendency by some Greeks and Romans to marginalize their Jewish brethren as somehow inferior and a prideful reaction from the Jews to defect to the synagogue. More importantly, the many references to the Hebrew Scriptures in chapters 1-8 had raised questions in the back of his readers’ minds: If God is so righteous, how could He give Israel so many privileges—especially the unconditional promises? And then, if God is so faithful, how could He reject His chosen people—especially in light of His unconditional promises?
These issues could easily surface doubts in every believer’s mind. “If God rejected Israel, will He reject me when I fail?” “I’m depending on the Gospel’s power to deliver me from this sinful life. But, if God’s people could not live righteously before Him, do I have any hope?”
God knows what we need when we ask these questions: A history lesson on the mercies of God! The Greek word for mercy occurs seven times in these three chapters but only twice in the rest of the letter! To assure us that God is faithful to His promises while remaining righteous, Paul begins with the particular problem of the Jewish resistance to the Gospel and ends with an unfolding of the divine purpose in history, which, in some ways goes beyond any comparable passage in the whole Bible. The lesson is profoundly simple:
Israel’s past, present and future prove that God is a merciful promise-keeper!⇦Tweet that!
Short Outline of Romans 9:
This spiritual tragedy brought intense sorrow to Paul (9:1-5).
God’s word has not failed since His promises have always been to spiritual Israel (9:6-13).
God’s character has not failed since His mercy guides His sovereign choices (9:14-29).
God did not reject Israel; Israel rejected Him through unbelief (9:30-33).
If we are to fully appreciate God’s mercies toward us, we must see them against the backdrop of His program for the chosen race. This will give us an understanding and willingness to make the spiritual sacrifice we are to make of ourselves to God in 12:1-2. In these three chapters we will begin to realize the immense privilege we have by the mercies of God.
Detailed Outline of Romans 9:
I. The spiritual tragedy of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and His Gospel broke Paul’s heart (Romans 9:1-5).
A.Paul solemnly reveals his intense and continuing sorrow for Israel (1-2).
1.Speaking in terms of a double oath (I tell the truth…I am not lying) in Christ’s name affirmed by two witness (my conscience, the Holy Spirit), Paul prepares his readers for a shocking statement they must not doubt (1). Note: The suffering Paul had just eluded to in vv 35-36 were primarily instigated by the Jews.
2.Speaking in terms of the most intense and unrelenting emotional pain (sorrow=grief as a state of mind; continual, unceasing stabbing in his heart), he introduces the tragedy of privileged Israel’s spiritual failure (2).
B.Paul solemnly reveals his willingness to be separated from Christ (if that was possible) if it would bring his privileged people to their Messiah and His message of righteousness by faith (3-5).
1.His pain is so intense he is willing, if possible, to be separated from Christ (3).
a.Since this is impossible (8:35-39), he uses the desiderative imperfect—“I wish I could.”
b.He redefines hell (anathema or accursed, cf. Galatians 1:6-8) to mean, for him, being cut off from Christ. Moses also desired this sacrifice for his rebellious countrymen (Exodus 32:32), as did David for his son, Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33).
c.What his countrymen understand and claim only according to the flesh, Paul now presents according to the Spirit in 4-5.
2.Each word and phrase documenting Israel’s privileges which should lead them to Christ gives a new agonizing twist to their tragedy and Paul’s basic principle—to the Jew first, but also to the Gentile (4-5, cf. 1:16-17).
a.To the Jew first not only describes Paul’s ministry priorities but also the redemptive history of humanity!
b.The progressive revelation of God in his dealings with Israel should have moved the nation toward relationship with her Messiah: adoption—the great act of redemptive history when God took the children of Israel as his own (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1); the glory—Shekinah glory of God, the proof that God dwells among His people; the covenants—God’s unconditional “deals” with Abraham and his descendants, especially David; giving of the law—God’s intimate guidance of every detail of life; the service—latreia has a double meaning of service and spiritual worship recalling the worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple; and the promises—laminated promises of God to His people culminating in a coming Messiah; the fathers—the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons) to whom the initial promises were made which all pointed to…the Christ—Christ’s Davidic descent (1:3)confirmed the promises made to the patriarchs (15:8).
c.Doxology: The Christ he adores, the Messiah of Israel is God over all (cf. Colossians 1:15-20). Note: This is Paul’s strongest statement that Christ is God.
II. God’s word has not failed true Israel—those He chose to love and bless (Romans 9:6-13).
Note: The success of the Gospel proves that God’s word has not failed because through Abraham’s descendant, Christ, the world is now receiving blessing (Genesis 12:3b.) During the church age, as Israel is set-aside in discipline, individual Jews are still elect (believing Jews) among physical Israel. This means that God’s promises to spiritual Israel continue in force. However, God will still fulfill His promises to Abraham about his physical, believing descendants, the regenerate nation of Israel inheriting the land (Genesis 12:1-3a; 15:18-21; 22:17). These promises still stand and will be fulfilled in the Millennium.
A.God’s word (promises to Israel) has not failed because, as Old Testament history demonstrates, all Israel is not “Israel” (6).
1.Being a genuine Jew has more to do with an inward spiritual reality rather than any racial or cultural requirements (Romans 2:28-29).
2.True Israelites in God’s eyes follow Abraham’s footsteps of faith (Genesis 15:6) which came before the law or circumcision (Romans 4:12-13).
3.True Israel, spiritual Israel, has always received the promises by faith (Galatians 3:7-9).
B.God’s promises are to selected individuals supernaturally born and apart from personal merit (7-11a).
1.Supernaturally born Isaac (Genesis 21) was chosen to receive the his father Abraham’s promises rather than Ishmael (Genesis 16) or the six sons of Keturah (Genesis 25) (7-9).
2.God chose Jacob over his twin, Esau by grace, apart from works (10-11a).
C.God is free to choose to whom His merciful promises apply (11b-13).
1.God’s plan and not a man or woman’s works is the basis of election (11a).
2.God chooses individuals apart from cultural norms (younger instead of older son) whom He then loves vigorously and relentlessly (Hebrew idiom: His love for Jacob was so intense that any other love, even that of Esau whom He blessed seems like “hate” in comparison, 11b-13).
III. God is Sovereign: He can do whatever He chooses (Romans 9:14-18).
A.God is not unfair to Israel because, in principle, He can do anything He wants (9:14-18).
1.God’s choice of Jacob over Esau (11-13) absolutely does not mean that God is unjust (14).
2.The Old Testament proves, as God told Moses, He is free in the exercise of His mercy (15-16).
3.Exodus 33:19 affirms God’s divine prerogative to choose objects of His mercy and compassion (15).
4.Hence, mercy does not find its source in any human cause (desire or effort, willing or running). Rather, mercy finds its source in a merciful God (16).
IV. The Old Testament proves, as God told Pharaoh, He is free to select who will display His power through receiving mercy or hardening (17-18).
A. Exodus 9:16 affirms God’s prerogative to choose objects of His judgment to demonstrate His power. In the Old Testament narrative, Pharaoh’s initial rebellion is his own (Exodus 5:2) and it is only after six miraculous judgments are poured out on Egypt and Pharaoh’s continual hardening of his own heart (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34) that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart in judgment. This establishes the principle: Hardening brings hardening by God (17, Exodus 9:16).
B. Hence, both mercy and hardening find their source in God’s display of His power. Why did God endure Pharaoh’s rebellion so long? Exodus 9:16 supplies the answer: To show God’s power even in the king’s obstinate unbelief. God has every right to make this stubbornness permanent, using his hardened heart for His own ends and glory. This establishes the principle that both mercy and hardening are God’s prerogatives in dealing with sinful humans (18).
V. God is merciful: He chooses to subordinate all His actions to His merciful purposes (Romans 9:19-29).
A. God is not unfair to Israel because, in practice, He does all to fulfill His merciful purposes (19-21).
1. God’s choice to harden a rebel’s heart (17-18) does not make Him unfair (19).
2. The Old Testament warns, in the pottery imagery (Isaiah 29:16, 45:9; Jeremiah 18:1-10), that God is not answerable to humanity for what He does (20-21).
–Jeremiah learned a lesson about God’s dealings with His people the day he went down to the potter’s house and saw how the potter molded the clay as he saw fit, squeezing the vessel that had gone wrong into a shapeless lump to make a new vessel of it again.
VI. The Old Testament proves, as the prophets foretold, God’s overarching purpose in all of His sovereign choices has always been to make known the riches of His glory by extending mercy to both Jews and Gentiles (22-29).
1. Whether in wrath or mercy God’s treatment of people in working out His sovereign purpose is marked by longsuffering and mercy (22-23). Vessels of wrath are presented first to highlight the wealth of God’s mercy. Note: Be careful to leave the mysterious tension in the doctrine of election that allows for the mystery of God’s ways yet avoids determinism. “Paul, more cautious than some of his systematizers, does not say outright that God does this, but says, ‘What if He does so? Who will bring Him to book [account]? It is a pity that for some the doctrine of election has been formulated to an excessive degree on the basis of this preliminary stage in Paul’s present argument, without adequate account being taken of his further exposition of God’s purpose in election” (F. F. Bruce).
2. Long ago God had declared His intention of showing mercy to those He would call to salvation, and He has lavished it upon men and women beyond counting—both Jews and Gentiles (24-29).
–Hosea’s prophecies to Israel (2:23, 1:10) had a much broader meaning than Israel ever imagined. Gentiles would become God’s beloved people, sons of the living God! (25-26)
–Isaiah’s warnings to Israel had a much broader meaning than Israel ever imagined (27-29). Israel’s presumptuous rebellion would be used by God to extend mercy on a worldwide scale (25-26). God preserved a remnant (Isaiah 10:22-23) though all of Israel deserves destruction (Isaiah 1:9, 13:19).
VII. God did not reject Israel; Israel rejected Him through unbelief (Romans 9:30-33).
A. Did God reject Israel because they were not elect? (9:30-31 cf. 14-29).
1. God’s rejection of Israel seems spiritually absurd!
a. Formerly rejected Gentiles are not God’s people and His sons? (9:25-26)
b. These Gentiles, who never pursued righteousness, have been declared righteous by faith (30; 1:16; 3:21-4:25). Note: This is the first mention of righteousness by faith since chapter 5.
2. But Israel, who pursued righteousness, has not become righteous (31). Note: The word-play on “law of righteousness” is significant. Trying to become righteous by the law designed to reveal sin (Galatians 3:24-25), they missed the true law of righteousness—sinful humans are declared righteous by faith, not by works (Romans 3:27-31; 8:2-4).
3. Implied: This can only be explained by election—they are no longer elect (simply vessels of wrath to display His glory as He extends mercy to the Gentiles, 9:19-24).
B. No, as the Old Testament clearly predicted, Israel rejected God by not believing in their Messiah and His message of righteousness by faith! (32-33)
1. The reason they failed to attain their goal of righteousness is simple: They were following the wrong path. Being committed to a righteousness by the works of the law, they rejected righteousness by faith offered by Christ (32a)
2. Israel’s rejection of the stumbling-block of the Gospel is not absurd since Isaiah foretold her failure! (32b-33).
–Israel’s failure to respond in faith to Messiah is simply a more tragic instance of the historical pattern bemoaned by Isaiah (Isaiah 28:16 linked to 8:14).
–Warned of impending judgment executed by an invasion of Assyrian troops which will sweep away (28:17) the refuge of lies the people trusted in (treaty with Egypt, 28:15), Isaiah speaks of a cornerstone, a sure foundation to save God’s people. The apostles identified the stone for a foundation as Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-6). But this stone, meant to be a stone of sanctuary, will become a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense (Isaiah 8:14).
–The cornerstone of our faith in Christ (Isaiah 28:16) is also a stone of stumbling (Isaiah 8:14) to all who reject righteousness by faith, but never a cause for shame in believers.
VII. God is a merciful Promisekeeper: Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).
A. God used the disobedience of Israel to extend mercy to all—Jew and Gentile—in order to exalt His grace in the glorious body of Christ (1 Peter 2:4-9).
1. He always purposed to glorify His mercies in a great spiritual building project of living stones—those who would come to His Son in faith (2:4-6).
2.He always knew His people of the physical temple, the Jews, would reject the Cornerstone of the spiritual temple—Jesus Christ (2:7-8).
3. He always has greater plans than any human being could ever imagine or think—His immensely privileged people of the church age (2:9-10).
B.What will you do with these awesome truths?
1. Is Jesus your Cornerstone or your stumbling stone? If you are clinging to your works-righteousness you are on the wrong path. Only those who believe will not be put to shame!
2. Are you aware of your privilege as a living stone in the spiritual temple of God—the church? When you believed you became a new person with a new destiny and a new job description…never to be ashamed!
3. Are you aware of your primary responsibility as a living stone in the spiritual temple of God—the church? Since you have obtained mercy never to ashamed again, proclaim His praises!