Romans Chapter 9 Bible Commentary on the Sovereignty of God

Right from the start, Romans chapter 9 dives into Paul’s heartfelt concern for the people of Israel. He paints a picture of God’s bigger plan; one that goes beyond our understanding. But woven into this God’s plan is our freedom to choose how we respond.

We just saw in chapter 8 that, for those who believe in Christ, nothing can separate us from God’s love. But what about Israel? What about unbelieving Jews? How does the purpose of God and His promises to Israel fit in with the New Covenant? 

Before Christ came, God’s chosen people expected their Messiah would be one who would deliver them from the Gentile oppression of the Roman Empire. Since that did not happen, many believed either that Jesus was not the Messiah or that God had broken His promises to Israel.

In this next step of our journey, these are the questions that Paul addresses. 

Romans chapters 9-11 address the mystery of Israel. We have already seen that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. The law is powerless to save. That knowledge could be sufficient for us. We could stop studying Romans right here. 

But, we would be sorry if we did. There is so much more to behold within the full scope of the gospel message. There is more wisdom and beauty to see in God’s Word.

Romans Chapter 9 Summary

Paul wrote this letter mainly to Gentile believers in Rome, and yet a remnant of believing Jews who placed their faith in Christ remained among them. 

Romans 9:1-13 – Israel’s Rejection and God’s Purpose

This first section of Romans chapter 9 shows Israels rejection of Christ Jesus and God’s purpose in the rejection of the jews.

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Verses 1-3

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my countrymen, my kinsmen according to the flesh NASB

This chapter begins with Paul announcing his deep anguish for the spiritual condition of his fellow brethren. If we read Philippians 3:4-6 we learn that Paul is of the nation of Israel from the tribe of Benjamin. 

His sorrow rests in the truth that many of his Brethren had and were continuing to reject the grace of God through Jesus as their awaited Messiah.

He came to His own, and His own people did not accept Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name – John 1:11-12

Paul even goes as far as to say that he would be willing to be accursed, separated from Christ if it meant the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters. Paul’s concern was to see the fruit of the gospel flourishing in the lives of God’s people. What a great reminder for us to have a similar passion for the salvation of those around us. How often do we allow lesser, trivial things to become the object of our passion and devotion? God wants our hearts, eyes, and hands passionately engaged in His kingdom work.

Verses 4-5

who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and daughters, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, and the promises; 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

For many years, the Gentiles had been excluded from the blessings of Israel. Now that Christ has come, all are welcome to receive the gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What about the Jews who don’t believe in Jesus? How do God’s promises to Israel fit into the New Covenant? 

Let’s keep reading.

Romans Chapter 9 Verses 6-13

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants shall be named.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.” 10 And not only that, but there was also Rebekah, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 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, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Romans chapter 9:8

Many believe the Old Testament teaches that all who were of the nation of Israel would automatically receive God’s spiritual blessings. The descendants of Abraham include the children of Hagar and Keturah, but God’s promise came through Sarah and her son; the lineage of Isaac, and then to Jacob through Isaac and Rebekah. (Genesis 17:1-19, 25:21-26) Isaac and Rebekah had twins. God chose the younger before they were even born showing His sovereign and gracious election are His to handout, and not based solely upon lineage and ethnicity.

In verse 13 Paul is quoting from Malachi chapter 1. “Jacob I have loved…” means God chose or elected his descendants (nation of Israel), and “Esau I have hated…” means God rejected the nation that came from him.

Paul’s answer shows that God’s promises to Israel have not failed. God’s divine purpose was revealed from the beginning.

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Romans 9:14-29

​In this next section, the main point Paul makes is that God is just in His sovereign election.

Verse 14

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? Far from it!

As we have seen throughout Romans so far, Paul is predicting that his teaching about God’s soverign election will cause questions in the minds of his readers. If God chooses to show mercy to some and not to others doesn’t that make Him unjust?

Paul answers this question with an unapologetic “No!”.

Verses 15-16

For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy.

When Paul says that it is not of him who wills, he does not mean that a person’s will is not an active participant in his salvation. 

Remember the context. Paul is talking about God’s sovereignty in choosing the nation of Israel.

God choosing Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and then Jacob over Ishmael and Esau does not make God unjust. God is perfectly free to choose to show mercy or not show mercy to what is His. We see this concept portrayed in the parable of the vineyard workers in Matthew 20:1-15.

 However, we must remember that God has, indeed, shown mercy to all of mankind. Here are just a couple of the places in scripture that show us how God has offered His mercy and kindness to all of us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Verses 17-18

Romans chapter 9:15

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I raised you up, in order to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

It was through the stubbornness of Pharoh that God was able to show His power and glory to His people living under the oppression of Egypt. 

Some, again, may think that it’s not fair of God to harden Pharoh’s heart. Here is some commentary on this:

“In adult life he proved to be wicked, cruel, and extremely stubborn. In spite of the most solemn warnings, he kept hardening his heart. God could have destroyed him instantly, but He didn’t. Instead, God preserved him alive in order that He might display His power in him, and that through him God’s name might be known worldwide.” – Believer’s Bible Commentary

Pharaoh had a part to play in the hardening of His heart. He was not doomed or set apart for hardening from the time of birth. Even if he was, God would still be just in doing so.

Romans Chapter 9 Verses 19-21

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, you foolish person, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does the potter not have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one object for honorable use, and another for common use?

In Romans 9:19-21, the apostle Paul addresses a common question about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. He poses a hypothetical question that someone might ask: “Why does God still find fault if His will is ultimately sovereign and humans can’t resist it?”

Paul’s response emphasizes the divine authority and wisdom of God. He reminds us that as God’s creation, we have no right to question the Creator. God, in His sovereignty, has the right to shape and use us as He sees fit. 

This idea could seem scary; one being who has all knowledge, power, wisdom, and authority. However, we must remember the character and nature of God.

Not only is He all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over all the affairs of heaven and earth, but He is also kind, good, self-giving, full of love, and compassionate.

Verse 22-29

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with great patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon objects of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 namely us, whom He also called, not only from among Jews, but also from among Gentiles, 25 as He also says in Hosea:

“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”

26 “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 living God.” 27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel may be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” 29 And just as Isaiah foretold: “If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, and would have been like Gomorrah.”

How does Paul begin this section? “What if God…” He is using hypothetical language here. He’s saying that, even if God prepared some vessels for wrath we, as His created vessels, have no right to accuse Him.

We also see Paul emphasizes that God’s invitation to salvation is not limited to the Jewish people. The love of God extends to all, including the Gentiles and shows us the impartiality and inclusivity of God’s love. He desires all people to come to Him.

Paul supports his argument by quoting from the Old Testament, showing that God had foretold the inclusion of the Gentiles in His plan of salvation. This reinforces the beauty and continuity of God’s plan throughout history and His faithfulness to His promises.

As God’s children, we are called to surrender our will to His and trust that His ways are higher than ours. While we may not always comprehend why things happen the way they do, we can take comfort in knowing that God is always working for our ultimate good and His glory.

Romans 9:30-33

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is by faith; 31 however, Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though they could by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Paul has already established back in Romans chapter 3-4 that the law is powerless to make a person righteous. The law was designed to reveal mankind’s comprehensive sinfulness showing our need for a different kind of Savior. 

The Gentile believers attained righteousness through their faith in Christ.

What the prophet Isaiah has spoken in Isaiah 8:14 had come to pass. The calling of the Gentiles left many of the Jews confused about the purpose of the Messiah. They were looking for a political leader to free the nation of Israel from the rule of the Roman Empire. Christ the Messiah preached about a different kind of Kingdom. He had become a stumbling stone to those in the Jewish community who held to the Old Covenant laws, temple worship, and traditions. 

However, those who embrace the knowledge that leads to true salvation and righteousness will never be put to shame.

As we conclude our study through Romans Chapter 9, we’re reminded that faith isn’t just about having all the answers—it’s about embracing the mysteries of God with faith and confidence. This chapter invites us to grapple with the tension between God’s sovereignty and our own choices, recognizing that both are integral to God’s grand plan for humanity.

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