What does Romans chapter 9 mean?Romans 9 tackles challenging and hard-to-follow issues. These involve both Israel's place in God's plans and God's own character.
Paul begins by declaring how heartbroken he is about the state of his people Israel. Paul was both Jewish and a Roman citizen. He and his father both served as Pharisees. Paul was truly a child of Israel. He was in such anguish for his people because they had, as a nation, rejected Christ. A few had believed, but Paul knew the majority of Jewish people were trusting the law to save them from God's wrath. Paul has gone to great lengths in Romans to show that the law cannot save. Shockingly, Paul says that he could wish that he would be cut off from Christ if, presumably, his people would come to Him (Romans 9:1–3).
Paul finds Israel's rejection of the Messiah all the more sad because God has given to her so many privileges as His chosen people. These include national adoption, showing them His glory, the covenants, the law of Moses, the worship at the temple, the promises, the patriarchs, and the ancestry of Christ. Paul insists that God will keep all His promises to Israel, but that not everyone physically born an Israelite will be saved from God's wrath (Romans 9:4–7).
To show that God can give His mercy to whomever He likes, Paul gives three examples from Israel's history in Scripture. In Paul's first example, God chose to give His promises to Abraham's son by Sarah and not by any of his other wives. Second, God chose to give the promises to one of Rebekah's twin sons and not the other before they were even born. Third, God hardened Pharaoh's heart while He was raining down plagues upon Egypt in order to increase His own glory (Romans 9:8–18).
Is that fair of God? Paul imagines his readers asking this question and fires back at us: "Who are you to answer back, mere mortal?" He compares God to a potter and asks if the potter cannot make items out of the same lump of clay pots for both honorable and dishonorable purposes. Paul takes it further, asking if God could not make vessels of wrath prepared for the purpose of destruction. What if, though, God patiently dealt with those vessels of wrath even though He was willing to show His anger and power against them for another purpose? Somehow, Paul seems to suggest, God's patience with the vessels of wrath is tied to revealing His glory to "vessels of mercy" that have been prepared for glory (Romans 9:19–24).
Finally, Paul quotes from Scriptures in Hosea and Isaiah to show that God has called out some Gentiles to be His people, while also calling out a remnant—but not all—of Israel. He has called all of these out through faith in Christ. The Jewish people have stumbled over the stumbling block of Christ because they have sought to reach righteousness by their works instead of faith (Romans 9:25–33).