What does Romans 9 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Romans 9:1–18 finds Paul heartbroken over the rejection of Christ by his people the Jews. They have been given so much as God's chosen people, and Paul insists that God will keep His promises to Israel. Not everyone born to Israel is truly Israel, though, Paul writes. Specific examples are given to show that God does, in fact, choose those who will receive His blessings. The following passage tackles whether this choice, by God, is fair.
Romans 9:19–29 deals with the issue of whether or not God's sovereign choice to bless some, and not others, is ''fair,'' in the way we often use that term. Paul's essential argument is that God is God, and as the Creator, He has the right to do as He wishes with His own creation. A potter can choose how to use clay, and that clay has no cause to complain that it was chosen for one purpose or another. In the same way, God has the absolute right to choose whom He will save. Quotations from Hosea and Isaiah are used to show that this sovereignty extends to God's plan to include Gentiles in the plan of salvation.
Romans 9:30–33 finds Paul declaring that though the Gentiles did not seek God's righteousness, it has been given to them by faith. Meanwhile, Israel pursued righteousness through following the law and did not reach it because they did not pursue it by faith. They stumbled over Christ, the stumbling stone. All who believe in Him will never be put to shame.
Chapter Summary:
Romans 9 begins with Paul describing his anguish for his people Israel in their rejection of Christ. After describing all the privileges God has given to the Jewish people as a nation, Paul insists that God will keep those promises. However, not every person born to Israel belongs to Israel, he writes. God reserves the right to show mercy to some and not others, as Paul demonstrates from Scripture. God is like a potter who creates some vessels for destruction and others for glory. God has called out His people from both the Gentiles and the Jews to faith in Christ, the stumbling stone.
Chapter Context:
Romans 8 ended with Paul's grand declaration that nothing can separate those who are in Christ Jesus from the love of God. Romans 9 turns a sharp corner and finds Paul heartbroken that his people, the Jews, have rejected Christ. He insists that God will keep His promises to Israel, but that not everyone born to Israel is truly Israel. God will show mercy to whomever He wishes, calling out His people from both the Jews and the Gentiles to faith in Christ. Romans 10 will find Paul discussing how Jewish people can be saved.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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