Romans 9:16
So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Of him that runneth.—A metaphor taken from the foot-races as St. Paul may very possibly have seen them practised at Corinth. (Comp. Romans 9:16; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:16.) The meaning is that the prize does not depend on human will or human effort, but on the grace of God.

9:14-24 Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only, Hos 13:9. God is bound no further than he has been pleased to bind himself by his own covenant and promise, which is his revealed will. And this is, that he will receive, and not cast out, those that come to Christ; but the drawing of souls in order to that coming, is an anticipating, distinguishing favour to whom he will. Why does he yet find fault? This is not an objection to be made by the creature against his Creator, by man against God. The truth, as it is in Jesus, abases man as nothing, as less than nothing, and advances God as sovereign Lord of all. Who art thou that art so foolish, so feeble, so unable to judge the Divine counsels? It becomes us to submit to him, not to reply against him. Would not men allow the infinite God the same sovereign right to manage the affairs of the creation, as the potter exercises in disposing of his clay, when of the same lump he makes one vessel to a more honourable, and one to a meaner use? God could do no wrong, however it might appear to men. God will make it appear that he hates sin. Also, he formed vessels filled with mercy. Sanctification is the preparation of the soul for glory. This is God's work. Sinners fit themselves for hell, but it is God who prepares saints for heaven; and all whom God designs for heaven hereafter, he fits for heaven now. Would we know who these vessels of mercy are? Those whom God has called; and these not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles. Surely there can be no unrighteousness in any of these Divine dispensations. Nor in God's exercising long-suffering, patience, and forbearance towards sinners under increasing guilt, before he brings utter destruction upon them. The fault is in the hardened sinner himself. As to all who love and fear God, however such truths appear beyond their reason to fathom, yet they should keep silence before him. It is the Lord alone who made us to differ; we should adore his pardoning mercy and new-creating grace, and give diligence to make our calling and election sure.So then - It follows as a consequence from this statement of God to Moses. Or it is a doctrine established by that statement.

Not of him that willeth - This does not mean that he that becomes a Christian, and is saved, does not choose eternal life; or is not made willing; or that he is compelled to enter heaven against his own choice. It is true that people by nature have no desire of holiness, and do not choose eternal life. But the effect of the influences of God's Spirit on the heart is to make it "willing in the day of his power;" Psalm 110:3. The meaning here is evidently, that eternal life is not bestowed because man had any original willingness or disposition to be saved; it is not because he commences the work, and is himself disposed to it; but it is because God inclines him to it, and disposes him to seek for mercy, and then confers it in his own way. The word "willeth" here denotes wish or desire.

Nor of him that runneth - This denotes "strenuous, intense effort," as when a man is anxious to obtain an object, or hastens from danger. The meaning is not that the sinner does not make an effort to be saved; nor that all who become Christians do not "in fact" strive to enter into the kingdom, or earnestly desire salvation, for the Scriptures teach the contrary; Luke 16:16; Luke 13:24. There is no effort more intense and persevering, no struggle more arduous or agonizing, than when a sinner seeks eternal life. Nor does it mean that they who strive in a proper way, and with proper effort, shall not obtain eternal life; Matthew 7:7. But the sense is,

(1) That the sinner would not put forth any effort himself. If left to his own course, he would never seek to be saved.

(2) that he is pardoned, not "on account" of his effort; not because he makes an exertion; but because God chooses to pardon him.

There is no merit in his anxiety, and prayers, and agony, on account of which God would forgive him; but he is still dependent on the mere mercy of God to save or destroy him at his will. The sinner, however anxious he may be, and however much or long he may strive, does not bring God under an obligation to pardon him any more than the condemned criminal, trembling with the fear of execution, and the consciousness of crime, lays the judge or the jury under an obligation to acquit him. This fact, it is of great importance for an awakened sinner to know. Deeply anxious he should be, but there is no merit in his distress. Pray he should, but there is no merit in his prayers. Weep and strive he may, but in this there is no ground of claim on God for pardon; and, after all, he is dependent on his mere sovereign mercy, as a lost, ruined, and helpless sinner, to be saved or lost at his will.

But of God that showeth mercy - Salvation in its beginning, its progress, and its close, is of him. He has a right, therefore, to bestow it when and where he pleases. All our mercies flow from his mere love and compassion, and not from our deserts. The essential idea here is, that God is the original fountain of all the blessings of salvation.

16. So then it is not of him that willeth—hath the inward desire

nor of him that runneth—maketh active effort (compare 1Co 9:24, 26; Php 2:16; 3:14). Both these are indispensable to salvation, yet salvation is owing to neither, but is purely "of God that showeth mercy." See on [2239]Php 2:12, 13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which, out of His own good pleasure, worketh in you both to will and to do."

q.d. God’s election is not of Jacob’s, or of any other man’s, willing or running; i.e. it is not from his good desires or deeds, his good inclinations or actions, or from the foresight thereof; but it is of God’s mere mercy and good pleasure. This text wounds Pelagianism under the fifth rib. Nec volenti, nec volanti, was the motto of a noble personage. So then it is not of him that willeth,.... This is not a consequence drawn by an adversary, showing that if this be the case, it signifies nothing for men to will or do, they may even sit still and do nothing, but depend on the mercy of God; but this is a conclusion of the apostle's from the above cited testimony, inferring from thence, that election, which is what he is discoursing of, is "not of him that willeth",

nor of him that runneth: that is, is not owing to the will or works of men, to the desires, inclinations, and affections of their minds, or to the actions of their lives; these are not the motives, conditions, or causes of this act:

but of God that sheweth mercy; in a free sovereign way and manner, which he is not obliged to by anything the creature wills or works; he is at full liberty, notwithstanding whatever they will or do, to give his grace and mercy, when, where, and to whom he pleases; and therefore to give it to some, and deny it to others, can never be accounted an act of injustice, since he is not bound to give it to any. Some make the it to be the blessing of Isaac, which was not of the will of any of the parties concerned; not of Isaac who willed it to Esau; nor of Esau who willed it to himself, but had it not; nor of the will of the persons who had their desires, not of the will of Rebecca, who was desirous of it for her son Jacob, nor of the will of Jacob, who desired it for himself, though he had it; nor of either of them that ran, not of Esau, who made haste to hunt for, and prepare venison for his father, nor of Jacob, who ran to the flock, for two kids of the goats; but of God that showed mercy to him, who, according to his sovereign will and pleasure, had signified before to Rebecca, that "the elder should serve the younger", Genesis 25:23, as the apostle had mentioned this so lately, it might still be in his thoughts, and he may allude to it; but election being what he is discoursing of in the context, that is the "it" here designed; and what is true of that, is true of salvation in all its parts, and therefore some understand it in the large sense of salvation; though by others so qualified and limited, as to spoil the glory of the text: some saying that the sense is, it is not of him that willeth and runneth wrong, but of the grace and mercy of God; but as no man would ever assert, that salvation is of him that wills and runs wrong, so the apostle had no occasion to deny it: others say, that it is not only of him that wills, and only of him that runs, but also of God that shows mercy; making man's will and works joint causes with the mercy of God in man's salvation; and besides, as Austin (k) long ago observes, according to this sense, the words might as well be read, it is not only of God that shows mercy, but of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, which no Christian would dare to say: the true sense is, that as election, which is the leading step to salvation, is not owing at all to the will of men, but to the good pleasure and will of God; and not at all to the works of men, that being done before them, and they being the fruits and effects of that, but to the free love, grace, and good will of God; so salvation in all its parts and branches, as redemption, justification, regeneration, calling, and conversion, faith, repentance, hope, love, &c. and eternal life, is not to be ascribed at all to the will of men, nor at all to the works of men, but entirely and alone to the love, grace, and mercy of God through Christ.

(k) Enchiridion, c. 32.

{12} So then it is not of him that {q} willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

(12) The conclusion of the answer: therefore God is not unjust in choosing and saving from his free goodness, such as it pleases him: as he also answered Moses when he prayed for all of the people.

(q) By will he means the thought and endeavour of heart, and by running, good works, to neither of which he gives the praise, but only to the mercy of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 9:16. Paul now infers from this divine word the doctrine implied in it of the causality of the divine redemption.

οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος] sc. ἐστί. Accordingly, therefore, it (the participation in that which has just been designated in the divine utterance as ἔλεος and οἰκτιρμός) is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God who is merciful; it depends not on the striving and urgent endeavour of man, but on the will of the merciful God. The relation of the genitive is: penes. See Bernhardy, p. 165; Kühner, II. 1, p. 316 f.

τρέχειν, a figurative designation of strenuously active endeavour, borrowed originally from the competitive races (1 Corinthians 9:24). Comp. Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Php 2:16; also in the classical writers. Incorrectly, Reiche (following Locke and others) thinks that θέλοντος was probably chosen with reference to the wish of Abraham to instal Ishmael, and of Isaac to instal Esau, in the heirship; and τρέχ. with reference to the fruitless running in of Esau from the chase (Theophylact understands it of his running off to the chase). For Paul, in fact, draws an inference with his ἄρα οὖν only from the divine utterance issued to Moses; and hence we are not even to conjecture, with van Hengel, a reference to Pharaoh’s hasty pursuit of the Israelites. Not on the runner himself depends the successful struggle for the prize (in opposition to Reiche’s objection), but he, whom God has chosen to obtain it, now on his part so runs that he does obtain it. Consequently the conception is, that man by his τρέχειν never meritoriously acquires the divine favour; but, fulfilling the predetermination of God, he, in the power of the grace already received, demeans himself conformably to it; hence Paul, in another place, where the context suggests it, exhorts to the τρέχειν (1 Corinthians 9:24). Beck’s opinion, that θέλειν and τρέχειν are here intended not in the moral sense, but metaphysically and juridically, is nothing but an exegetically groundless deviation from the simple and clear meaning of the words.

τ. ἐλεοῦντος Θεοῦ] to be taken together. Had Paul intended τ. ἐλεοῦντος as independent, and Θεοῦ as an apposition, he would have only weakened the antithetic emphasis by the very superfluously added Θεοῦ (in opposition to Hofmann).Romans 9:16. Conclusion from this word of God. It (namely, the experience of God’s mercy) does not depend on man’s resolve or effort (for τρέχειν cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24 ff.), but on God’s merciful act. This, of course, merely repeats Romans 9:12-13, buttressing the principle of God’s sovereign freedom in the exercise of mercy by reference to His own word in Exodus 33:19.16. of him that willeth] Not that human willing and running are illusions; but they are not the cause of mercy. They follow it; they may even be the channel of its present action; but they are not the cause. Its origin is not “of” them. Cp. Php 2:13.

runneth] The idea is of one actively moving in the path of right His energy may tempt him to think that he originated the motion; but he did not.—The word “runneth” belongs to St Paul’s favourite metaphor of the foot-race. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-26; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Php 2:16.Romans 9:16. Ἄρα οὖν, therefore) so also Romans 9:18. The inference of Paul here is not drawn from the particle ὃν ἂν, whomsoever, but from the words ἐλεῶ and οἰκτείρω, I have mercy, and I have compassion.—οὐ τοῦ) not of the man that willeth, nor of him that runneth, supply it is, the business, or, will, course [the race is not of him that runneth, etc.]; not that it is in vain to will rightly, and, what is of greater importance, to run, or strive rightly, 1 Corinthians 9:26; Php 3:14 : but because to will and to run produce none of the things aimed at by those, who trust to their works. The human will is opposed to divine grace, and the course [the run] of human conduct to divine operation.—Comp. Romans 9:30-31.It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth. It, the participation in God's mercy. Of him, i.e., dependent upon. Runneth, denoting strenuous effort. The metaphor from the foot-race is a favorite one with Paul. See 1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:26; Galatians 2:2; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:1. God is laid under no obligation by a human will or a human work.
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