Dr. Constable begins comments on Romans 9-11 concerning the vindication of God’s righteousness. This is a very profound section of scripture that has been the center of much debate for many years. Dr. Constable does an excellent job in explaining the truth of the scripture at hand. It should be understood here that chapters 9-11 speaks of Israel. These chapters contain eleven occurrences of the term ‘Israel’. In every case it refers to ethnic or national Israel. It never includes Gentiles within its meaning.
In Romans chapter nine we see Paul talking about Israel’s past election. In verses 1-5 Paul reviews God’s blessing on Israel. Paul began with a very emotional appeal to the salvation of Israel. He mentioned that if it was possible, he would give up his own salvation in order that all of Israel would be saved. Israel was particularly blessed due to what God had given them. The list of those blessings is found in verse four which include: adoption, the glory of God, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises. The point that Paul was making was simply that God had blessed Israel greatly.
In verse 9-13 of chapter nine we see God’s election of Israel. Verse six is often taken out of context by those who adhere to replacement theology, suggesting that the church replaces Israel in God’s program. They will take the first ‘Israel’ in this verse as the old Israel and the second ‘Israel’ as the new Israel or the church. However, this is not what Paul was suggesting. Paul was concerned with only two kinds of Israelites, those saved and those unsaved. A complete study of scripture shows that there is no warrant for interpreting ‘Israel’ as anything other than Jews who are either saved or unsaved. It is within this context that Paul illustrates the sovereignty of God in choosing those whom He desires to carry out His plan. God chose to give Abraham a particular son who would be born in a supernatural way in order to carry on the seed of God’s redemptive plan. That son was Isaac. He further illustrates this point with God’s choosing of Jacob. Once again, God chose Jacob to be the one to carry on God’s special plan for Israel. Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3 by stating that God loved Jacob but hated Esau. Keeping within the context of Malachi 1:2-3; this is not an emotional love and hate. The term ‘love’ is better understood as ‘chosen’ and the term ‘hate’ is better understood as ‘not chosen.’ This is not a choosing for individual salvation, as some may suggest, but rather for the specific purpose of being the one to carry the seed of the inheriting of the blessings promised to Abraham.
Verses 14-18 deals with God’s freedom to elect. The question is raised as to whether or not God is just in choosing. God certainly is just. In this we see that God’s grace and mercy is given simply by God’s sovereignty and not based on human merit. Paul gives the illustration of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart being used for the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan. It must be understood here that Paul failed to mention that in Exodus we are told that God harden Pharaoh’s heart after Pharaoh has already hardened his own heart. God raised Pharaoh up for the purpose of showing God’s power, not from birth, but from the point of the hardening, which Pharaoh put upon himself by his own rejection of God. God was certainly merciful toward Pharaoh for quite some time.
In Romans 9:19-29 we find God’s mercy toward Israel. God made them as ‘vessels of honor’ to make known His glory. Israel had no right to criticize God for making them for a specific purpose. It must be noted that these vessels of honor are those Jews who have believed. The unbelieving are the vessels of wrath. In verse 22 we find the phrase ‘prepared for destruction.’ This is meant as saying, ‘fitted themselves for destruction.’ In other words, people prepare themselves for destruction by pursuing sin. There is absolutely no ‘double predestination’ seen here. Never in scripture do we see God choosing individuals for condemnation. He predestines for salvation not for hell. When people become vessels of wrath and are condemned it is because of their own sin, not because of God’s choosing. In verses 25-26 we see Paul includes believing Gentiles into this group of vessels of honor. Believing Gentiles become members of God’s new people, the church. In verse 27-29 we find God faithfully saving a remnant of Jews who believe in Him.
The mercy of God is extended to the Gentiles in verses 30-33. Israel worked hard to obtain righteousness through the keeping of the law, but they failed. God’s mercy is now extended to the Gentiles. The Jews stumbled over God’s salvation plan, and therefore, it is now extended to the Gentiles and to all who will believe.
This chapter reminds us that salvation is only by the grace of God. We see from Romans chapter nine that what counts is grace, not race.