A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS: The Sovereign choice of God Romans 9

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


In Romans, Paul says:

·         We are all sinners, without excuse (chapters 1–3).

·         Our only route back to God is through faith (chapter 4) in the accomplishments of the death of Christ on the cross (chapter 5).

·         That sanctifies us before God, setting us apart from our sin (chapters 6– 8).

·         But this sanctification is not for everyone. It is only true for those who are chosen by the sovereign plan of God (chapters 9).


                                                                If God is for His elect (8:31) and will never remove His love for them (8:37; 39), why has He set aside His chosen people, the Jews? It certainly looks like something separated them from His love. The gospel makes it clear that many Jews would not be included in God’s promises now, but many gentiles would be included. If this were true, isn’t God being unfair to them and unfaithful to the promises He had already made to Israel? After all, God had promised that the descendants of Abraham would be recipients of certain blessings. Isn’t God obligated to them? Doesn’t He owe them? God does not owe anyone anything and His dealings with Jews and Gentiles cannot be characterized as unjust.



Verses 1-2: Some might have thought that Paul hated the Jews since he had departed from Judaism and now preached a Law-free gospel. Therefore, he took pains to affirm his love for his fellow Jews, with a triple oath. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit. Rather then any sort of bitterness toward the Jews, even though many of them had persecuted him because of the gospel, he is filled with not just sorrow and anguish but great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. His emotions were not shallow.

Verse 3: His desire is so strong that Paul said he honestly would give up his own salvation for that of the Jewish people, but it doesn’t work that way. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, but still holds the Jewish people dear in his own heart. Yet, there is nothing he can do about their separation from Christ. They must believe Jesus for the gift of eternal life. By the way, that is a definition of the lost accursed, separated from Christ. That is their spiritual reality.

PT— Here is an example of how we should feel toward those we know who are separated from Christ!

Verses 4-5: The Jews who are Israelites for sure did hold special status with God. Once again Paul reviewed that status to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. Even Christ had His ancestry through the Jews making them a special people indeed! However, all of these favors were squandered by Israel’s unbelief and rebellion.



Verses 6-7: Some might now think Gods promises to Israel have been nullified as though the word of God has failed. But Israel’s future is still firmly guaranteed, even though they are currently set aside, by the word of the Lord. In Paul’s thinking its one thing to be an Israelite naturally, but another thing to be an Israelite spiritually. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel. That includes you and me, by the way. We are spiritual descendants of Abraham. What’s important to remember is that God has a future for spiritual Israel—all of those who are believers.

PT God’s promises had not failed, but had been misunderstood. Depending on one’s physical lineage to Abraham as sufficient to lay claim to God’s promises to the nation was unacceptable. Nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants that is, physically. Even though God has promised to bless Abraham’s descendants, it was only one branch of his family that he singled out. But: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” Being a physical descendent of Abraham does not automatically qualify an Israelite as a true Israelite—that is a spiritual Israel.

PT—Just as it is true that growing up in a Christian home or attending the church or getting baptized is no guarantee or basis of claiming salvation.

Verses 8-9: So, the only ones regarded as children of Abraham are those designated ‘children of promise’. That is, it is not the children of the flesh (physical posterity of Abraham) who are children of God, but the children of the promise (spiritual posterity of Abraham) are regarded as descendants. Our faith is based upon the promise of eternal life. Salvation comes spiritual, not naturally. This means it is not those who are born naturally as a Jew. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” Other children were born to Abraham like Ishmael, but the one born supernaturally as result of God’s power, Isaac, born to Sarah in her old age, when she was beyond child bearing years, was chosen. God’s purposes are associated with Isaac and the promises made about him and to him.

PT—Actually, God’s true children are always born supernaturally, by faith, and become recipients of God’s promises. No one gets into the kingdom of God naturally due to any personal advantage.

Verses 10-13: However, someone might state that God’s favor would naturally come through Isaac because he was the firstborn of Abraham and Sarah. Yet, that was not true of Jacob. And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac. Esau and Jacob had the same mother/father, unlike Ishmael/Isaac. Twins shared the firstborn privilege since one conception produced both of them. However, God chose Jacob even though Rebekah bore Esau first. For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” As in case of Isaac, God made a choice between them before birth. God chose Jacob before any deeds or character showed him worthy of this. The fact that Jacob became a less admirable person than Esau emphasizes God’s choice was not due to Jacob himself. Actually, God’s treatment of Jacob’s heritage as opposed to Esau’s heritage was like the contrast between love and hate. Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” This is similar to Jesus words if anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26). Because of your devotion to Christ, you will make choices that will look like you hate people, especially those closest to you—and even your own welfare. God’s choice of Jacob was so stark that it looked as if he hated Esau in contrast.

PT Paul shows how the choice of Israel has always been selective. God’s promise to Abraham did not include all his descendants, but only a select line. Isaac, not Ishmael and his Arab descendants. Jacob, not Esau and his Edomite descendants.



Verses 14-16: To some it may seem that this raises the fundamental issue of the justice of God. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there?  Nope. Not possible. May it never be! God has prerogatives regarding such matters as He orchestrates events that mark out His plan. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” This is not an issue of justice, but of sovereign decision. Actually, God’s choosing to show mercy and compassion or not does not depend on any effort or desire on my part. So, then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. God has the right to show mercy to whomever he chooses. No one deserves or can earn God’s mercy. We can and should plead for God’s selective compassion, but should not expect us. Its Gods prerogative to give it.

PT— Mercy is something that God gives, in the sense that He might be merciful at any time, but He only applies mercy selectively.

Verses 17-18: The right to show mercy involves the right also not to show mercy. An example of such is the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up. In Exodus this hardening process is attributed to Pharaoh himself (Exodus 8:15, 32). Yet, God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” It’s always about the glory of God, a demonstration of something about God what His prerogatives allow. So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. God also has the right to harden anyone He chooses, such as Israel. If God could harden Pharaoh’s heart for this purpose after Pharaoh had hardened his own, did not God have right to do same with Israel who had also hardened their own hearts against God?

PT—God hardens hearts by letting one have what they want. In Romans 1 God gave them over. God was not unjust because he allowed the hardening process to continue. Rebellion and disobedience does not stop the plan of God from happening. God uses it along with its consequences to reveal greater glory for Himself. 

Verses 19-21: Now, someone could conclude You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” If God is so in charge, how can anyone do anything differently? Why would God blame him/her for what they do? Paul does not consider this a worthy argument. On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Can anyone imagine such a scenario?

PT—Not one of us had any say in who our parents would be. Or what personality we would have. Or the color eyes be given. Or what nationality I am. God made that choice for us. Why would we think God does not take other matters of our life into His hands? It is presumptuous to sit in judgment upon God’s prerogatives. Those belong to Him.

Indeed, a potter is well within his rights to take a lump from a batch of clay and make a beautiful vessel out of it. Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use. Or even possibly for common household use and another for common use? Really Israel had nothing to complain about since God had formed her for an honorable use. Obviously the same is true of individuals, like you and me.

Verse 22: This same divine Potter also has the right to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, if that is what He wishes to do. Pharaoh was such a vessel of wrath. But so was Israel who opposed the very gospel being preached by Christ and the apostles giving them ample time to repent due to God’s mercy. In fact, God endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

God has patiently endured their antagonism, but their judgment is coming. The rebellious have made themselves ripe and ready for judgment. Romans 2:5 says, they are storing up wrath against themselves. People prepare themselves for destruction by pursuing sin, advocating for what God is against.

Verses 23-24: God’s patience is to show His glory to the recipients of His mercy and He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory. His mercy afforded God an opportunity to display Himself as well in terms of his Glory. The intrinsic value of God is worth learning of. So the reason for having us as objects of His mercy is to glorify Him. We advertise the character and the nature and the riches of God’s character! Even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. All that we face in life was prepared beforehand to glorify God. This is so for all of His people—both Jew and Gentile believers. Is the intrinsic value of God on display in your life?

PT—Yesterday I received call about Max who said ‘its getting darker’ in anticipation of leaving here to the glory he has been preparing Max for these past 88 years. He was at least ready to go.

Verses 25-26: To reinforce his point, Paul quoted Hosea. As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people ‘My people’, and her who was not beloved, ‘beloved’. The inclusion of Gentiles into this chosen and called group is in harmony with Old Testament prophecy. God chose to extend His mercy beyond the boundaries of Israel to Gentiles. And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people’ there they shall be called sons of the loving God.

Verses 27-28: Even thought the nation waits to be judged in the future, God will spare a remnant to ensure His promises to them. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved. This will be true in the Tribulation.

This reckoning that God would make with mankind will be brief. For the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” Gods righteous work of judgment will be swiftly completed in 7 yrs.

Verse 29: An example of such swift devastating temporal judgement comes from Isaiah who foretold, “Unless the Lord of the Sabbath had left to us a posterity, we would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah. Israel, too, might be as completely wiped out as these two notorious cities. God as divine Potter is answerable to no one. He both postpones and deals mercifully. Bottom line: Israel does have a future, but in the meantime Gentiles are now recipients of Gods mercy.



Verses 30-31: Jewish rejection of Jesus made Gentile mercy possible. What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith. God’s mercy is such that Gentiles are righteous by faith even though they previously did not pursue righteousness. We became righteous by believing the gospel. But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Israel struggled hard to obtain justification by doing good works or depending upon their pedigree, but did not arrive at the righteousness of the God of the Law.

Verses 32-33: Israel as whole, excluding the remnant, failed to gain righteous standing before God because she tried to obtain it by works. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. However, they stumbled over a stone in the road that hindered their progress. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. So intent on winning God’s approval, the Jews could not even recognize the Stone they were tripping over as the One prophesied in the Old Testament—the very One who provided their salvation. Just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Jesus Christ became an object of scorn to the unbelieving nation of Jewish people. Consequently, Jesus became a stumbling stone for them. Matthew 11:6 says blessed is He who keeps from stumbling over me’. God made Christ to be both a stone of stumbling and an object of faith.


So What?

·         God has sovereign prerogatives simply because of who He is. The Triune God, the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have no rivals. Within the Trinity there is no rivalry.

·         God’s choosing and calling of us as His people comes with a wealth of riches that belong to us forever.

·         God’s mercy is His selective compassion, and it is only applied to those whom God selects to be merciful.

·         Jesus Christ is the selective plan of God to bring His mercy to the condemned sinner. Without Christ there is no eternal mercy.