NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER NINE (Lesson XXVIII)
Some Bible scholars feel that the words in Hosea are misused by Paul since there they were meant to identify the ten tribes of Israel, some of who are later identified as Samaritans. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin became known as Jews. But Paul is using these words as an illustration of how God did the same for Gentiles as He did for the Jews. Adam Clarke sees this working out in line with what the prophet Hosea heard about how the rejected Jews, who had been Lo-Ruhamah – “You are my people,” but would now become Lo-Ammi – “You are not my people.” To the contrary, the Gentiles, who had been a Lo-Ammi – “You are not my people,” would become Lo-Ruhamah – “You are my people.”1 So when God said: “I will plant her for myself in the land,” Clarke believes this to be an allusion to the dispersion of the Jews over all the Greek, Persian, and Roman empires. The Jews then proved to be the seed planted among the Gentiles in order to bring forth fruit for the Gospel seed in Gentile fields.2
Robert Haldane states that the Jewish nation had traditionally been seen as the spouse of God. After all, did God not say: “I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion?”3 But when Messiah came, the Gentiles were destined to be His spouse. He would be the one who would say to Lo-Ammi, Lo-Ruhamah. Now we can better understand why Paul would see how the Gentiles, who were vessels of wrath, would become vessels of mercy because of the divine Potter’s own decision in accordance with His own sovereign will. This was all meant to be part of the reason for sending Christ into the world.”4
So from among the nations which formerly served idols, and of whom it was usually and truly said that they were not God’s people, there will be those of whom it would be said, you are the children of the Most High God.5 They would serve a Living God, not the dead idols or gods of their own imagination, which they formerly worshiped. This proves that, in their former state, they were without God in the world.6 Consequently, the Scriptures hold out no hope for those Gentiles who are left uncalled by the Gospel.
Charles Hodge, therefore, declares that no external circumstance, no descent from pious parents, no connection with the true church, can secure admission for people into the kingdom of Christ (see verses 6-12). As such, Hodge contends that Paul teaches clearly the doctrine of Personal Election to eternal life, an election founded not on works, but on the good pleasure of God. The choice is to eternal life, and not merely to temporal privileges. So also Hodge sees two leading objections against the doctrine of election, namely, that it is inconsistent with God’s divine character, and incompatible with human responsibility. Both of these are addressed by the Apostle Paul. Whoever God decides in favor of cannot be unfair, because God has the right to exercise the privilege of sovereign choice. Whoever God decides against, cannot be considered as unfair because it is consistent with human responsibility. It is not God who makes them wicked. As their Sovereign, He has a right to dispose of the righteous and the wicked as He pleases. So out of the same clump of clay, He will be able to use some for His honor, and others will end up in dishonor because of how they were used.7
On the question as to why Paul chose these two First Covenant quotes in defense of his argument about the Gentiles being included in God’s salvation plan, Henry Alford says that it is difficult to know for certain how the Apostle Paul intended to use these passages from Hosea so that he could prove that they were written as prophecy that the Gentiles would one day be called the people of God. Paul’s words themselves bear witness to the fact that this was his intent as we see in verse 27. When we read these words in the context of what is spoken of Israel throughout Hosea, we see that after being rejected and put away, they were again to be received into God’s favor.
Alford says there are two ways to keep in mind when trying to understand what the Apostle Paul meant by quoting them. First, he presents them as a way to show that it is consistent with what we know of about God’s dealings. That He is willing to receive as His people, those who were formerly not His people. In this case, it was the Gentiles who fit this description. However, in a way, we can see that God often used Israel as a lesson on how He planned to deal with all mankind in the future. On the other hand, Paul may be using these quotes from Hosea as an illustration of the subject he is talking about at the moment. Remember he is writing to the church in Rome that was having trouble with the assimilation of the Gentiles into what was earlier a Jewish Messianic body of believers. Perhaps it was meant to be a warning to the Jewish members and an encouragement to the Gentile members. Alford takes the first option, and says that Chrysostom holds the same opinion.”8
F. F. Bruce sees it this way: What Paul does here is to take this promise of God that referred to a prepared plan that would first happen within Israel, and then would be repeated as divine action worldwide. We see that the church began in Jerusalem, then spread to Samaria, then to Antioch and out into the rest of the world. Paul may have also felt that in his own apostolic ministry and missionary endeavors that a great number of Gentiles, who had never been called “the people of God” and had no part in the first covenant through Moses, were daily being enrolled among Christian Jews to become recipients God’s grace and mercy. It was not unusual in Hosea’s day to find converted Gentiles worshiping in Jewish synagogues. So the idea was not new. But the scale of the implementation of this divine action was to be far wider than Hosea saw. Through the Gentile mission, in lands where the people of God had only been represented by the Jews, there were now many Gentile believers who were being acknowledged as children of the living God. So it may have been on a different scale, but the same pattern and principle were recognizable.9
Verses 27-28: And Isaiah cries out about Israel: “There are so many people of Israel, they are like the grains of sand by the sea. But only a few of them will be saved. Yes, the Lord will quickly finish judging the people on the earth.”10
With the help of the prophet Isaiah, Paul now sends out a warning to his own people, the Jews. Yes, the promise given to Abraham included all of his progeny. Not by default, but by choice. This quote from Isaiah involved a situation where the people living in Jerusalem were fearful that the Assyrian army would come and destroy them. But they are told to trust in the Lord to save them. In this instance, Paul sees a similarity in what believers both in his day and in days to come would endure. Not because of the army of the Assyrians, but the army of those opposed to the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. We see the same warning given by Jesus in His words: “You will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”11
Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards does not feel that we should look back to Paul’s day and consider all the time that has passed as a period of rejection and scattering of the Jews because they were replaced by the Gentiles and so the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has been suspended in relation to the promised seed and all the mercies and blessings that were to come with it. As Edwards sees it, those promises are now in actual accomplishment in the grace bestowed on the Christian church, as well as before, in His mercy bestowed on the Jewish church, but in a much greater full and glorious manner. God has not pushed away the descendants of Abraham and Israel during this dispensation of grace. Instead, He has brought them nearer to Himself, and has, according to frequent prophecies of the Gospel period, abundantly increased their blessings and the manifestations of His favor to them. [I must interject that this was written before the holocaust of WWII]. Edwards feels that up to his day the nation of Israel was not treated any differently than when they were carried off into Babylonian captivity. For even if the greater part of that nation were forever removed from being God’s people in their own land, yet there was a remnant that was preserved and would be returned. So we can say what God promised the Jews through Abraham has been mostly fulfilled through the Christian church.12
On what Paul says here in verse 28, Robert Haldane comments that this refers to God’s judgments poured out upon the Jews for rejecting the Messiah. This basically eliminated them from being thought of as God’s people. It would be less than 40 years later that the Temple would lie in ruins, and the people of Jerusalem driven out like unwanted foreigners. Only a small remnant would remain. As to the question of whether what Hosea said could have been that which happened to send the House of Israel and the House of Judah into exile, and then the re-establishment of the Jews after their Babylonian captivity, must be dismissed since it fits better in the time frame of what happened after Christ’s death and resurrection.
What God is saying here has more to do with Israel’s spiritual relationship with God than their national relationship. Just think, from the time of the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Jews have had no sacrificial altars to make payment for their sins; no Holy of Holies where the blood is sprinkled on the Mercy Seat; no Passover Lambs being slain, no Scapegoats used to carry their sins away into the wilderness. It appears that the whole house of Israel was rejected from the covenant of God, and scattered around the world because of His displeasure. Even worse, up until then, God had patiently tolerated their sacrifices, rites, rituals, and festivals. But now, they had heard the Gospel, brought by God’s only Son, and rejected it. Clearly, this is the stark reality that the First Covenant had expired and the Last Covenant was being instituted. Furthermore, verses 27 & 28 confirm what is said in the 22nd verse, that although God endures the wicked for a season, they had become the objects of His wrath, being prepared for destruction.13
1 Hosea 2:23
2 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 188-189
3 Hosea 2:19
4 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 490
5 Hosea 1:10
6 Ephesians 2:12; 4:18
7 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 502
8 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 86
9 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 195
10 Isaiah 10:22-23
11 Matthew 24:9-13 – The Living Translation
12 David S. Lovi. The Power of God: A Jonathan Edwards Commentary on the Book of Romans (pp. 220-221).
13 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 492