NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER NINE (Lesson XXXV)
So we can see that putting our trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, the One provided by God, need never fear that their trust will ever be jeopardized. God upholds His people’s faith, even when others might say, “He committed His cause to the Lord; let Him deliver Him, let Him rescue Him, for He delights in Him!”1 When we go back to the Hebrew text of Isaiah 28:16, it reads “He who believes will not be in haste.” That means the one who stands firmly on God’s foundation will be able to keep their minds firm and secure while all around them others are losing theirs and blaming it on God. There will be no need to panic or get upset and rush aimlessly around. By trusting in God, and being confident that His purpose will be accomplished in His own time, allows His blessed assurance to grow in the promise that He will finish what He started.2”3
Jewish theologian David Stern agrees with the translation, “Will not be humiliated (or ‘disappointed’ or ‘put to shame’) on the Day of Judgment.”4 As I see it, the two easily go together. One, down here we have totally invested our future in Christ Jesus and need not become uncertain or afraid of the outcome for He will stick with us every step of the way. Two, we should not become anxious about appearing up there before Him on Judgment Day. Since He ordered that our names be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, He will read it off and tell us to join the band of saints who were destined to live with Him in peace and joy forever and ever.
Speaking like an accomplished Pharisee, Paul poses a question to make a point. This happened between Jesus and the Pharisees many times.5 One Jewish Christian writer comments on Paul’s answer to his own question. Ad he sees it, Paul is demonstrating that God has indeed granted righteousness to the Gentiles. But this must in no way be understood his saying that Gentiles have replaced Israel in God’s overall plan of salvation. When this verse is quoted out of context, it can easily be used to reach a false conclusion. Paul will repeat this question in chapter 11 and gives the answer there. To follow the teachings of the Torah on the basis of faith is a good thing and is not done away with by faith in Yeshua; He is the fulfillment of the Torah.6
Paul does not condemn observing the teachings of the Torah. However, to take what the Torah says and act on it apart from faith is to “stumble over the stone.” Paul states that the majority in Israel had stumbled over both the Torah and the Messiah. These are intertwined because the Torah and the Messiah are “united” and that “union” is found in the covenant plan of God expressed in the Torah and enacted by the Messiah. Israel did not arrive at the Torah’s goal of accepting Yeshua as the Messiah.7 The stumbling-stone and the object of faith are all combined: God, Messiah, and Torah. Christ was designated as a solid rock sanctuary, but instead, He became a stumbling-stone to Israel8.9
English evangelical preacher Charles Simeon, back in 1844, cautioned that everyone must understand that when the Gospel is preached with the designed intent to offend the listener, this proves that it is true and scriptural. At the same time, when people find the Gospel is preached in such a way as not to cause any offence to self-righteous people, then it certainly is not of God and anointed by the Spirit. Paul ran into this when he proclaimed that salvation came only by grace. His enemies replied, that in that case, God must be partial and unjust. When Paul said it was by faith, they then replied that he was doing away with good deeds. In Simeon’s mind, because some of these same objections were being repeated in his day, if people who know when the Gospel is real, but raise no objection to such interpretation, then they will not be standing up for the Gospel the way the Apostle Paul did. They and others could be rightly accused of accommodating the pride and prejudice of an ignorant world, instead of supporting the preaching of the Gospel as freely and as fully as they should.10
So don’t worry when the preaching of the Gospel is criticized for not being “hearer-friendly.” As long as people refuse to humble themselves before God, thinking that He owes them something, the Gospel will continue to be a stumbling-bock and a rock of offence. So the question remains: should we quit preaching the Gospel this way and be quiet so as not to cause trouble? Not for a moment! When people are willing to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from God’s Word, then the same glorious power of salvation that turned the world upside down in Paul’s day, will continue to be the power of God unto salvation to all who believe today.
SUMMARY OF ROMANS CHAPTER NINE
When we reached the conclusion of the previous chapter, Paul had completed his description of how God doing the right thing to save lost mankind was manifested in Christ, and the results justified His decision to pardon them from the fatal penalty of being forever separated from Him for all eternity. However, some of Paul’s readers may have gotten the impression that God’s plan of saving man in Christ apart from the Law (3:21-22) implies that God had rejected His people of Israel and the promises made to them. That’s why Paul begins with this chapter nine to explain that God has not rejected His people.
Having been an unconverted Jew in the same condition as many Jews, it gave Paul real concern for his fellow Israelites who had not yet accepted Jesus as the Messiah (verses 1-2). Paul knew it would take a lot for them to change their mind, so, if it would do any good, he tried to imagine what it would take to get them to see what without Christ they are lost. He even wondered if losing his own status in Christ would help turn things around. But he realized that there was nothing more he could do than what God had already done through Christ. After all, these were the people who, in the past, had been the recipients of so many of God’s blessings (verses 3-5).
Paul is quick to point out that their promises to keep the law had not caused God’s promises to fail. He reminds them that a true Israelite is not simply one who is a physical descendant of Israel, any more than the promises to Abraham were to be carried out through all of Abraham’s descendants just because they are his earthly descendants. Rather, it depends upon those God has chosen according to His Divine purpose. This is illustrated by contrasting what the Scriptures reveal about Isaac and Ishmael, and then about Jacob and Esau (verses 6-13).
That God has made such distinction is illustrated further with the example of Pharaoh, where God showed how His miracles can soften the hearts of some but harden the hearts of others. That’s because some saw mercy as an undeserved gift from God while others viewed it as an insult to their intelligence and turned down His offer again and again. This also proved why God has the right to make such choices since He is the potter and people are the clay (verses 19-21).
So after much patience and petitioning, God chose some of those vessels He had made on His potter’s wheel to use as “vessels of mercy” and some as “vessels of wrath.” (verses 22-23). Moses and the children of Israel became vessels that He filled with mercy, and Pharaoh and his fellow Egyptians are the ones filled with wrath. Those who were freed were destined to be the nation through whom the world would be blessed. And, as Hosea and Isaiah later would tell them, the Gentiles would also become joint-heirs to the promise of Abraham. (verses 24-29).
Paul’s conclusion? That God’s words of promise were not just to the physical descendants of Abraham (as the Jews would have it), but to the faithful remnant of Israel and to the Gentiles who accepted God’s righteous gift of salvation which is by faith. The only reason any of the Israelites were rejected by God was due to their rejection of the Messiah, even as Isaiah foretold (verses 30-33). So it all boils down to a simple formula: either do it God’s way or try and do it man’s way. God’s way comes with a promise of success, man’s way comes with a promise of failure.
END OF CHAPTER NINE
1 Psalm 22:8
2 Philippians 1:6
3 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 198
4 David H. Stern; On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
5 See Matthew 22:15-17; 23-28, 34-36, 41-45
6 See Romans 3:31
7 Ibid. 10:4
8 See Isaiah 8:14; 28:16
9 Messianic Bible: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 Charles Simeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 371-372