Dec 15, 2019
Originally Presented: February 3rd, 2008
In the first five verses, Paul poses the question as to why the Jews, with all their spiritual privileges, were not being saved. His stunning answer is that not all ethnic Israel is true Israel (Rom 9:6). It is only the chosen "children of promise" who will be saved. Paul's Old Testament illustrations of God's choosing some and not others are the stories of God choosing Isaac and not Ishmael (Rom 9:7-9) and God choosing Jacob and not Esau (Rom 9:10-13).
Paul knows his readers, at this point, might think that God was somehow being unjust and he voices that objection in Romans 9:14. The next few verses are designed to laud the freedom of God to show mercy to whomever He desires to do so and to harden (leave to his sins) whomever He desires to do so (Rom 9:15,18).
Paul's grand conclusion here is that God's bestowal of mercy in salvation does not depend, ultimately, on man's will or effort - "So then, it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs . . ." God's mercy in salvation rests solely on God, the good pleasure of whose will is determinative (Rom 9:16; cf. Eph 1:4-6).
And when the human heart responds, as it often does, by saying that somehow God is not being fair or just by choosing some and passing over others, Paul frankly says, "Who are you, O man who answers back to God" (Rom 9:20). This passage lauds the majesty of God in all His glorious sovereignty over His creation. And these verses call on us to remember that God must not be judged by human standards. He is right in all He does. Some men receive mercy. Some receive justice. No one receives injustice.