The Baker Illustrated Handbook on the Grace of God in Romans 9

The following is taken from The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook on Romans 9-10 and is authored and edited by Drs. J. Daniel Hays and J. Scott Duvall, both of whom are graduates of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Wort, Texas. The same overarching view found in this Handbook is also available in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, properly contextualizing Romans 9-11 in its original Jewish setting. In the latter, concluding a section from Paul at Ephesians 1 regarding election and predestination, we read: "There is no hint here of [God's] choosing some people [unconditionally] and rejecting others."1 Hays and Duvall write the following.

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An Important Concern: God Has Been Faithful to Keep His Promises (9:1-11:36)

In Romans 9-11 Paul is addressing two important matters: (1) the unbelief of Israel, and (2) how this unbelief affects God's faithfulness to his covenant promises. Israel's unbelief seems to call into question God's ability to keep his promises, an important aspect of God's righteousness. Paul addresses these matters by retelling Israel's story in order to show [that] God has actually been faithful all along.

Paul's sorrow over Israel's unbelief (9:1-5)

Paul confesses his "great sorrow and unceasing anguish" that most of his fellow Jews ("those of my own race" in v. 3) have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah (9:1-2). Paul says he would be willing to be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his fellow Jews (9:3). Israel had been granted many privileges -- sonship, glory, the covenants, the law, temple worship, the promises, the patriarchs, and the Messiah (9:4-5). But those who had been given so much have failed to acknowledge Jesus Christ, "who is God over all, forever praised!" (9:5)

God's faithfulness revealed in the story of Israel (9:6-29)

We learn in 9:6-13 that God has not failed to keep his covenant promises with Israel because "not all who are descended from Israel are Israel" (9:6). Not all physical descendants of Abraham are actually Abraham's children (9:7). The term "Israel" has two meanings (9:6, 8): physical Israel ("natural children") and true Israel ("children of promise"). Paul mentions two Old Testament situations that prove his point, one dealing with Abraham's sons and another with Isaac's sons (9:9-13). In 9:14-18, Paul explains [that] God is not unjust to have mercy and compassion on sinful human beings. After all, salvation does not depend on human effort but on divine mercy (9:15-16). God has been merciful to Israel so that salvation may spread to the entire world (9:17-18). Having talked about the patriarchs and the exodus, Paul now moves on to the prophets and the exile in retelling the story of Israel.



His main point in 9:19-24 is that God's patience leads to salvation. To begin with, sinful creatures have as much right to question their sovereign Creator as a lump of clay has to question the potter (9:20-21). God has displayed great patience with his sinful people, people deserving of condemnation, in order to "make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy" (9:22-23). 

To deal with sin and create a new covenant community, God has withheld judgment so that salvation may come to the whole world, including Jews and Gentiles (9:24). As the Scriptures indicate, God's promise to Abraham is fulfilled in the saving of the remnant (9:25-29). This serves God's larger purpose of bringing salvation to the Gentiles (9:25-26). The remnant includes that small number of Abraham's descendants ("children of promise") whom God preserved in order to keep his promise (9:29).

God's righteousness for everyone who believes (9:30-10:21)

Israel has failed to secure God's righteousness because they pursued it by works of law rather than by faith (9:30-32). While Israel has "tripped" or "stumbled" over Jesus, the "stumbling stone," those who trust in Jesus the Messiah "will never be put to shame" or condemned at the final judgment (9:32-33; 10:11; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; 50:7-8). Israel has stumbled because their zeal for God is not grounded in knowledge and truth (10:1-4). Instead of accepting the righteousness provided by Christ, they have attempted to construct their own righteousness through works of law.

Paul continues to pray [that] they will turn to Christ (10:1). In 10:5-13, Paul makes it clear God's righteousness comes by faith. Righteousness based on law comes by "doing" (10:5; Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:12), while "righteousness that is by faith" looks to Christ (10:8). Everyone -- whether Jew or Gentile -- who confesses "Jesus is Lord" and believes God raised him from the dead will experience God's saving righteousness (10:9-10, 12-13; Joel 2:32).

In 10:14-21 Paul demonstrates how Israel has rejected the good news. He first explains (using a series of questions) what comes before salvation: (1) preachers are sent out with a "timely" (sometimes translates "beautiful") task of proclaiming the good news, (2) people hear the message, and (3) people believe what they hear (10:14-15; Isa. 52:7). He then applies this sequence to Israel (10:6-21). Israel clearly heard and understood the good news of Jesus, but only a few Israelites accepted the message (9:6; 10:16-21; Deut. 32:21; Ps. 19:4; Isa. 53:1; 65:1-2).2

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1 The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, eds. Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), 1356.

2 The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, eds. J. Daniel Hays and J. Scott Duvall (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 761-63.