What does Romans 9:17 mean?
ESV: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
NIV: For Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
NASB: 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.'
CSB: For the Scripture tells Pharaoh, I raised you up for this reason so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in the whole earth.
NLT: For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, 'I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.'
KJV: For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
NKJV: For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
Verse Commentary:
Paul continues to make the case that God is not unjust or "unfair" for choosing to give His mercy to one person and not another. He has offered two examples from Scripture so far. In the first case, God chose to give the covenant promises only to Abraham's son by Sarah and not the children of his other wives. Next, Paul showed that God chose Jacob over Esau while the twin boys were still in their mother's womb, having done nothing right or wrong to earn God's favor or rejection.

Those examples involve an "active" sense of God's mercy. He is not obligated to be merciful to anyone, so there is nothing unjust about God selecting only some to benefit from His grace. If grace was earned, it would not be grace (Romans 4:2–5; 11:6).

Now Paul references the Pharaoh of Israel's liberation from Egypt, with a quote from Exodus 9:16. This comes from God's words to Moses about what to say to Pharaoh before sending another plague. God wanted Pharaoh to know that He had raised Pharaoh—or Egypt—to power and prominence so that God could show His own, much greater, power in bringing Egypt to her knees. God's stated reason for doing this was that His own name would be proclaimed in all the earth.

In other words, God raised up Pharaoh and brought Pharaoh down for the sake of His own glory. This is meant to be understood in the context of Paul's upcoming remarks about a potter having the right to mold clay for his own purposes (Romans 9:20).
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.
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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