James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,Romans 9:1-11:36
PARENTHESIS CONCERNING ISRAEL
These chapters carry us back to chapter 3, where Paul proved the lost condition of the Jew as well as the Gentiles. But if this were so it might be charged that the Old Testament promises to Israel had failed, which he now shows is not the case. This line of argument is threefold: first, some of Israel were already saved (chap. 9); secondly, all of Israel might be saved but for unbelief (chap. 10); thirdly, all of Israel would be saved ultimately (chap. 11).
Chapter 9 might be divided thus:
1. The apostle’s solicitude for Israel (Romans 9:1-5), whose seven-fold privilege he names. There is a difficulty of interpretation in Romans 9:3, which might be helped by a slight variation in the translation, which some have rendered: “I have great heaviness . . . for my brethren (for I myself were wishing to be accursed from Christ).” The thought may be that he is expressing sympathy with them in their spiritual darkness, because he was once in a like case.
2. The fact that some of Israel were saved (Romans 9:6-13). The Word of God had taken some effect for there were Israelites who had believed, and were now counted not only as Abraham’s natural posterity but his spiritual children. This principle of selection was illustrated in the choice of Jacob over Esau. “Hated” (Romans 9:13), must not be understood of arbitrary wrath, but only as expressing choice.
3. The sovereignty of God in such a choice is defended (Romans 9:14-24), for His mercy is under His sovereign will. The reference to Pharaoh must not be understood of arbitrary action on God’s part, but as involving the free choice of the wicked monarch. God did not put forth effort to change that choice, so that the hardening of his heart was the penal consequence of his folly.
4. The Old Testament predicted the rejection of Israel and the calling of the Gentiles (compare Romans 9:25-33 with Hosea 1:10; Hosea 2:23; and Isaiah 10:22-23).
The whole of chapter 10 shows that the rejection of Judah is due to their unbelief, i.e., to their desire to work out under the law a character or righteousness which would satisfy God, instead of accepting a righteousness from Him by faith (Romans 10:3-4 compare, with Romans 10:10).
Chapter 11 shows that the setting aside of the nation has not been perpetual. In the first place, there was a remnant of the faithful even at the present time, of whom the apostle was one (Romans 11:1-6). Indeed, there always had been such a remnant. There was one in Elijah’s day (compare Romans 11:2-7 with 1 Kings 19:18). There was one in Isaiah’s day (Isaiah 1:9). During the captivity there was such a remnant, and at the end of the seventy years a remnant returned to the land. Look at Luke 2:38 for one at the period of the first advent of Christ. There are believing Jews in our day who constitute such a class, and we have seen in our Old Testament studies that the prophecies focus on the deliverance of the remnant during the tribulation (Revelation 7:3-8). It is the hopes and fears of this last-named that the millennial psalms treat.
In the second place this chapter indicates that the national blindness of the Jews had been foretold (Romans 11:7-10). But in the providence of God it gave an opportunity to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11-12), which the latter are warned to profit by (Romans 11:13-22). Throughout this warning there are several intimations of the restoration of Israel as a nation (Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15-16). This is what is meant by “their fulness,” “the receiving of them,” etc. The “first fruit” and the “root” are Abraham, and the “lump” and the “branches” the offspring that came from him.
Finally, it is definitely stated that the nation shall be restored (Romans 11:23-36), by which is meant the faithful remnant at the end of the age. The “fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25) means the completion of God’s purpose in them at that time, i.e., the whole body of Christ, the church, will have been called out from among them, and caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Observe the reference to Christ’s second coming in Romans 11:26, and to the fulfillment of God’s original promise to Abraham in Romans 11:29. “Without repentance” means without a change of mind on His part.
1. To what past of the epistle does this lesson carry us back?
2. What possible charge is it intended to refute?
3. Give the refutation in outline.
4. Name the seven great privileges of Israel.
5. How is Romans 9:3 sometimes rendered?
6. How is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to be explained?
7. What explains the rejection of Israel as a nation?
8. Trace the history of the remnant of Israel in the Bible.
9. What is the meaning of the “fulness of the Gentiles”?