Romans Chapters 9 to 11, Part 5
by Karl Kemp
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Part 5 of this verse-by-verse study of Romans chapters 9-11 starts with Rom. 9:27.
(27) [[Paul now "quotes" from Isa. 10:22, 23; 1:9 (mostly following the Septuagint; the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek) in Rom. 9:27-29 to show that Israel is headed for intense, dramatic judgment that will reduce them to a relatively small remnant. (See the discussion of Isaiah 10:20-23 and Romans 9:25-27 in my eschatological paper on Isaiah on my website [Google to Karl Kemp Teaching.] That discussion is located toward the end of the chapter dealing with Isaiah chapter 27.) In these verses (Rom. 9:27-29), in this context, Paul placed more emphasis on the intense end-time judgmental shaking of Israel than on the fact that there will be a remnant (though the remnant is obviously a very important part of God's salvation plans). As I mentioned (see under Rom. 9:17, 18, 21-23), I believe the apostle was thinking of this intense end-time judgment of Israel when he spoke of God's enduring with longsuffering the vessels of wrath so that His judgment would be more dramatic, even as God set the stage for a dramatic judgment of Pharaoh and Egypt by the hardening of Pharaoh.
Based on Zech. 13:8, it seems that some two thirds of the Israelites will be cut off and perish in God's end-time shaking of Israel. (Zechariah 13:8 is discussed on pages 226, 227 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Revelation 16:19 fits the idea that two thirds of the Israelites will be cut off in the last days. See the discussion of that verse in my verse-by-verse study of Rev. 14:6-19:21.) This reduction will take place, at least for the most part, during the one-month period between Antichrist's abomination of desolation and the mid-week return of Christ, during the warfare of the short great tribulation that will directly involve Jerusalem, the temple, and the land of Israel.
I had a footnote: On the intense end-time judgment(s) that will reduce Israel to a humbled, repentant remnant, see under Dan. 12:1 in my "The Mid-Week Rapture" (pages 149-159); under Zech. 13:8 (pages 226, 227); and under Zech. 14:1, 2 (pages 228, 229). Joel 2:32 and Mic. 5:3 are two other verses that speak of the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Israel; those verses are also discussed in "The Mid-Week Rapture."]] Isaiah cries out concerning Israel [[It would probably be better to translate the Greek particle "de" as "And" here, rather than leaving it untranslated: "And Isaiah cries out." "Israel" here, like Israel in Rom. 9:31-10:3; 11:7, for example, refers to unbelieving Israel. Some of these Israelites were yet to become Christians (e.g., Rom. 11:14), however, and the time will come that "all Israel [the end-time remnant of Israel] will be saved" (Rom. 11:26).]], 'THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT [[I had a footnote: Paul uses the word "remnant" of the Israelites of his day who had become Christians in Rom. 11:5. (Romans 11:5 uses a different Greek word for "remnant" ["leimma"] than Rom. 9:27 ["hupoleimma"].) Romans 9:27, taken by itself, would fit the idea of the remnant as the word is used in Rom. 11:5, but Rom. 9:28, 29 fit much better with the idea of the remnant left standing after God's end-time judgment of Israel, and those verses tend to force that interpretation on 9:27 too. We'll discuss this remnant further as we discuss Rom. 9:28, 29.]] THAT WILL BE SAVED [Paul's quotation here in verse 27 is very close to the Septuagint version of Isa. 10:22. Verse 28 is an abbreviated quotation of the Septuagint version of Isa. 10:23. They will be saved from being removed by judgment in God's end-time judgment of Israel, and they will be saved through submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith.]; (28) FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD [He will bring His prophetic word to pass (a word that is frequently mentioned by the Old Testament prophets), that intense judgment was ordained for Israel at the end of this age and that it was only the remnant left after that judgment that would be saved.] ON THE EARTH [[or, "LAND." Isaiah 10:23 (NASB) reads, "For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord GOD of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land." Isaiah 10:20, which wasn't quoted by Paul here, demonstrates that the judgment spoken of in Isa. 10:20-23 looks (at least for the most part) to God's end-time judgment of Israel, not to some earlier judgment (like that which came through the Assyrians or Babylonians); it reads, "Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped [they will have escaped being removed in the judgment], will never again rely on the one who struck them [like the Assyrians or Babylonians], but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel." The Bible makes it clear that God's end-time judgment of the world will come to all nations.]], THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY.' (29) And just as Isaiah foretold, 'UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT TO US A POSTERITY, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WOULD HAVE RESEMBLED GOMORRAH.' [Paul quoted this verse from the Septuagint version of Isa. 1:9. For Israel to become like Sodom and Gomorrah would mean that there would be no remnant left after God's intense judgment.]
SOME MORE QUOTATIONS REGARDING THE INTERPRETATION OF ROMANS CHAPTERS 9-11:
I'll quote part of what Charles R. Erdman (a Calvinist) says as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("Epistle of Paul to the Romans" [Baker, 1983], pages 109, 110). "These chapters are difficult, possibly the most difficult to interpret of any which Paul ever penned. Their chief obscurities are in connection with his statements of divine sovereignty and 'election.' ...
... It is possible to form quite wrong opinions by reading detached and isolated statements; the three chapters must be read as a unit. Paul does state the sovereignty of God, but also, quite as clearly, the free agency and moral responsibility of man. The three chapters form a trilogy: The first deals with divine sovereignty, the second with human responsibility [[I had a footnote: I'll quote Erdman's brief analysis of Romans chapter 10 from page 108 of his book. "...the rejection of Israel as a nation was due entirely to the fault of Israel. The way of salvation appointed by God, even through faith in Christ, was offered to all, and had been made perfectly plain to Israel. Their rejection, therefore, was not arbitrary on the part of God, but was due to their stubborn and willful unbelief."]], the third with universal blessing.... They open with a cry of anguish as Paul looks upon the unbelief and loss of the kinsmen he so truly loves; they close with a doxology of praise in view of the mercy which overarches all the mysterious providence of God, whose 'judgments' are 'unsearchable,' whose 'ways are past tracing.'
... Paul makes no endeavor to reconcile the facts of divine predestination and human freedom.... While stating, in startling terms, the sovereignty of God, he nonetheless holds Israel responsible for its impenitent unbelief, and warns the Gentiles against pride, self-confidence, and loss of faith. ...
Again, no matter how moral one is trying to be, he is really guilty of fatal fault, if he is willfully refusing the way of goodness and life, of pardon and purity, provided in Jesus Christ. ....' "
I'll quote part of what Godet says as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("Epistle to the Romans," [Zondervan, 1969, which is a reprint of the 1883 edition], pages 336, 337). "The domain upon which the apostle here enters is one of the most difficult and profound which can be presented to the mind of man. It is that of theodicy, or the justification of the divine government in the course of human affairs. But he does not enter on it as a philosopher, and in its totality; he treats it in relation to a special point, the problem of the lot of Israel, and he does so as a part of his apostolic task.
... Some have taken it as a dogmatic and general statement of the doctrine of election.... This view finds its refutation in the entire course of this great exposition, in which the apostle constantly reverts to the people of Israel, the antecedents of their history (9:6ff.), the prophecies concerning them (9:27-29 and 10:19-21), and their present and future destiny (see the whole of chapter 11, and particularly the conclusion, vv. 25-31). ... Calvin himself is perfectly aware of this. Here is the dilemma which, according to him, St. Paul resolved in these chapters: 'Either God is unfaithful to His promises (in regard to the Jews), or Jesus whom Paul preaches is not the Lord's Christ particularly promised to that people.' "
I'll also quote a paragraph that Godet included at the end of his discussion of Rom. 9:1-18. "Perhaps we shall be charged with introducing into the explanation of the apostolic text clauses which are not found in it. This charge is just; only it is not against us that it comes. The reserves indicated in our interpretation arose of themselves, we think, from the special case the apostle had in view. For he was not here writing a philosophy or a system of Christian dogmatics.... ... This occasional character of the apostle's teaching in this chapter has not always been considered; men have sought in it a general and complete exposition of the doctrine of the divine decrees; and so they have completely mistaken its meaning. And hence we have been forced to put ourselves at the general standpoint by supplying the clauses which the apostle took for granted, and the statement of which was not required by the particular application he had in view" (page 356).
I'll quote part of what Thomas R. Schreiner says as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("Romans" [Baker, 1998], pages 472-474). "... The thesis of all of Romans 9-11...follows in 9:6a. 'It is not as though the word of God has fallen.' The central issue in the chapters is not predestination.... At the forefront of Paul's thinking is God's faithfulness to his promises. ... The reason why God's word has not fallen is explained in the first major section, 9:6b-29. ...
Romans 9:30-11:10 constitutes the second movement...and...functions as a corollary to the first. In 9:6b-29 Paul emphasizes God's electing will, which sees to it that his promises are effectively secured. [If God weren't sovereign, we couldn't be sure that He could fulfill what He promised. On page 505 Schreiner says, "God's faithfulness to his promises is assured since it does not depend on human beings but on himself alone."] It would be a serious misreading of Paul if this were read in a fatalistic way that undermined human responsibility. Paul emphasizes that salvation is equally accessible to Jews and Gentiles by faith, and the Jews had ample opportunity to believe, since they heard the gospel. ... ...they resisted God's offer of salvation....
...some scholars believe a contradiction exists between 9:6b-29 and 9:30-10:21. In the first text God's promises are said to be effective because they are based on his electing grace. Then in the second text Paul resorts to human responsibility or freedom as the reason why Israel was excluded. ... The OT teaches that human freedom operates under the umbrella of divine sovereignty. ...
... ...the OT Scriptures pledge a glorious future for Israel.... ...."
I'll quote part of what Henry Alford says as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 2 [Baker reprint, 1983], pages 917, 918). "The Gospel being now established [in Romans chapters 1-8], in its fullness and freeness, as the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, - a question naturally arises, not unaccompanied with painful difficulty, respecting the exclusion of that people, as a people, to whom God's ancient promises were made. With this national rejection of Israel the Apostle now deals: first (9:1-5) expressing his deep sympathy with his own people: then (9:6-29) justifying God, who has not (verses 6-13) broken His promise, but from the first chose a portion only of Abraham's seed, and that (verses 14-29) by His undoubted elective right, not to be murmured at nor disputed by us His creatures: according to which election a remnant shall now also be saved. Then as to the rejection of so large a portion of Israel, their own self-righteousness (verses 30-33) has been the cause of it, and (10:1-13) their ignorance of God's righteousness.... ...
The apparent inconsistencies of the Apostle, at one time speaking of absolute decrees of God, and at another of culpability in man, - at one time of the election of some, at another of a hope of the conversion of all, - resolve themselves into the necessary conditions of thought under which we all are placed, being compelled to acknowledge the divine Sovereignty on the one hand, and human free will on the other, and alternately appearing to lose sight of one of these, as often as for the time we confine our view to the other." We need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches on this topic (as on every topic), as far it is possible to know it.
I'll also quote part of what Alford says under Rom. 9:16 (page 923). "I must pause again here to remind the student, that I purposely do not enter on the disquisitions so abundant in some commentaries on this part of Scripture, by which it is endeavored to reconcile the sovereign election of God with our free will. We shall find that free will asserted strongly enough for all edifying purposes by this Apostle, when the time comes. At present, he is employed wholly in asserting the divine Sovereignty, the glorious vision of which it ill becomes us to distract by continual downward looks on this earth. ... ...."
I'll quote a paragraph from what Joseph H. Fitzmyer says regarding the interpretation of Rom. 9:6-29 ("Romans" [Doubleday, 1993], page 559). "The paragraphs that follow in this chapter [Rom. 9:] 6-29, coupled with Paul's assertion in [Rom.] 8:28-30, have been the subject of a long history of interpretation with regard to free will and predestination by Gnostics, Origen, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Calvin, Arminius, and more modern interpreters. For a brief survey of this history, see Sanday and Headlam, "Romans" [T. & T. Clark, 1977], pages 269-275."
I'll include a few excerpts from the book just referred to by Fitzmyer. "Chrysostom [AD 347-407] is like Origen [about AD 185-254] a strong defender of Freewill. ... On [Rom. 9:16] he explains that Jacob was called because he was worthy [Jacob was different than Esau, and he was receptive to God's grace, but to say that he was "worthy" of God's saving grace tends to minimize his need for God's mercy and grace.], and was known to be such by the Divine foreknowledge. ... The commentaries of Chrysostom became supreme in the East, and very largely influenced all later Greek commentators" (page 270). I don't believe Chrysostom adequately interpreted what Paul said in Rom. 9:6-29, but that's common with these verses. I have much respect for Chrysostom's commentary on Romans. He was strong on righteousness and holiness, and (in my opinion) his interpretation of Romans chapter 7 was better than that of most modern commentators.
I'll include a very brief excerpt from what Sanday and Headlam say regarding Augustine's latter view, "...Election is not based on foreknowledge, for if it were based on foreknowledge then it would imply merit" (page 271). If it was inappropriate for Chrysostom to speak of Jacob's being "worthy" to be chosen by God (see the preceding paragraph), it was also inappropriate for Augustine to say that God's foreknowledge of certain individuals with favor would mean that those individuals had "merited" salvation.
And I'll quote part of what Sanday and Headlam say regarding Calvin and Arminius. "The antithesis which was represented among patristic commentators by Augustine and Chrysostom was exaggerated at the Reformation by Calvin and Arminius. Each saw only his own side. Calvin followed Augustine, and exaggerated his harshest teaching: Arminius showed a subtle power of finding Freewill even in the most unlikely places.
The object of St. Paul, according to Calvin, is to maintain the freedom of the Divine election. ... ...the one He predestinates to salvation, the other to eternal damnation. This determination is quite independent of foreknowledge, for there can be nothing in man's fallen nature which can make God show kindness to him. [Nothing in man's fallen nature can "make God show kindness," but it is quite relevant that some are receptive (and some eventually become receptive) to His saving grace.] ... There is no means of telling the principle by which one is taken and another rejected; it lies in the secret counsels of God" (pages 273, 274). We may not fully understand why God elects one and not another, but the Bible makes it rather clear what response He requires of people, things like humility, repentance, faith, and obedience (obedience by grace).
Lastly, I'll include some excerpts from E. P. Sanders ("Paul and Palestinian Judaism" [Fortress Press, 1977]). The first excerpts are taken from his section 3 (which covers pages 257-270), which is titled "Election and predestination," in the chapter titled "The Dead Sea Scrolls." The reason we are considering the viewpoint of the community that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls regarding God's sovereignty and man's free will is that it has much in common with what we find in the New Testament. (I'm not suggesting, of course, that the writings of the community at Qumran are comparable with the inspired Scriptures.) These excerpts from Sander's book will help us better understand the tension between God's sovereignty and man's free will (man's will is free to some extent after the fall).
First I'll include three brief quotations from the writings of the community at Qumran that speak of God's sovereign control of everything (taken from page 259 of Sander's book). "All things come to pass by His knowledge; He establishes all things by His design and without Him nothing is done. (IQS 11.11)" "For without Thee no way is perfect, and without Thy will nothing is done. It is Thou who hast taught all knowledge and all things come to pass by Thy will. (IQS 11.17f.)" "In the wisdom of Thy knowledge Thou didst establish their destiny before ever they were. All things [exist] according to [Thy will] and without Thee nothing is done. (IQH 1.19f.)"
Sanders points out, SIGNIFICANTLY, that though the people at Qumran emphasized the sovereign control of God, they "did not understand this in such a way as to exclude man's ability to choose which of two ways he would follow. The idea of God's electing grace was not formulated in opposition to man's freedom of choice, and in this sense it is anachronistic to speak of 'predestination.' [Sanders has a footnote here. "... The particular way in which God's electing and governing grace is emphasized in some passages...makes 'predestination' a natural term, as long as it is not understood in the technical sense of excluding free will. ...."] ... Thus we note repeatedly in the Scrolls the notion of election by God side by side with explanations of entrance into or exclusion from the covenant on the basis of the individual's choice" (page 261).
"... The 'doctrine of predestination' in the Scrolls is best seen as answering the question of why the covenanters are elect, rather than whether or not there is free will" (pages 267, 268).
Lastly, I'll include an excerpt from the part of Sander's book that deals with the apostle Paul. After discussing the fact that Paul taught that men must submit to the gospel in faith, he went on to say, "... Although the individual's ability to decide and commit himself to a way or a Lord seems to us to exclude predestinarian statements, we should recall that the two generally go together in Judaism. Just as the Qumran covenanters are called both the elect and those who choose God, so Paul has no difficulty in thinking of those who 'accept' the gospel as being the 'elect' of God ([Rom. 8:28-30, 33] cf. also 1 Thess. 1.4; 1 Cor. 1.24, 26; Rom. 9.11f; 11.7). Precisely how we should formulate the balance between predestination and decision in Paul is difficult to say. ... It is noteworthy that Paul did not feel compelled to make the harmonization. When he has in mind the assurance of salvation, God's action in giving it to men and God's grace in so doing, he can employ predestination terminology. When he has in mind the human need for decision for Christ's lordship, the terminology is that of 'faith.' Statements of the latter type predominate in Paul's letters, but the predestination and grace statements prevent them from being understood as offering the possibility that one may be saved by his own efforts" (pages 446, 447).]] (30) What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained ["have obtained" (NIV)] righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith [[It probably would have been better to start chapter 10 with this verse. (The chapter and verse divisions were added at a much later date.) Although the Gentiles, unlike the Jews, speaking in general, were not interested in being righteous before the God of Israel (who is the Creator, God, and Judge of all people), many of the Gentiles obtained the righteousness of God (the imputed and imparted righteousness of God) through submitting to Christ by faith. Most of the Jews rejected Christ and the gospel, and they failed, therefore, to obtain the righteousness they were pursuing. The apostle makes it very clear in the book of Romans (and in other epistles) that faith in Christ is the only way to obtain the righteousness of God (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:16, 17; 3:21-24; 10:6; 2 Cor. 5:21; and Phil. 3:9). We'll speak more of the all-important righteousness of God which is by faith as we continue with verses 31, 32.
In Rom. 9:30-10:21 (and in some key verses of chapter 11), the apostle writes from the point of view that God calls all people (all Jews and all Gentiles) to repent and submit to the gospel in faith. This is the most common point of view found in the New Testament, so we can't be too surprised when we find it expressed here. But I can't help being somewhat shocked by the contrast with Rom. 9:6-29, where all the emphasis was placed on God's sovereign right to elect and call, or to reject and harden, as He wills, making it sound like man doesn't have any input. (I had a footnote: As I pointed out under Rom. 9:6-29, the hardening spoken of in those verses apparently dealt only with the special case of the hardening of some of the Israelites.) Both emphases represent important Biblical strands of truth, but as we discussed, it's difficult to determine exactly where the balanced truth is. Anyway, we'll be in good shape as long as we continue to fully acknowledge both strands of truth, not denying one strand or the other (which so often happens).]]; (31) but Israel, pursuing a law [Law] of righteousness, did not arrive at that law [Law]. [[See under verse 30. Israel (speaking of the Israelites who did not submit to Christ and the gospel) did not arrive at the law (Law) in the sense that they did not arrive at the righteousness of the Law. The Law taught about righteousness, and it demanded righteousness; but it could not impart this righteousness. No one could be saved by keeping the Law, because no one had the ability to fully keep the Law apart from being born again and sanctified through the new covenant in the blood of Christ Jesus (cf., e.g., Rom. 3:9-24; Gal. 3:10-14, 21, 22).
I'll quote the second sentence of Gal. 3:21, "For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law [the Law]." ((I had a footnote: This sentence in Gal. 3:21 is very important for at least two reasons. For one thing, it confirms that the new birth was not available under the old covenant. It also confirms that Paul was speaking of an actual righteousness, a righteousness of the heart and life imparted to believers by the Spirit. The Spirit who imparts life imparts righteousness; the imparted life of God includes the power to be righteous and holy. Believers under the old covenant (and believers living in the days before the old covenant) could be forgiven and have right standing with God, and some grace was available for them to live relatively righteous lives through faith, but spiritual death and sin continued to reign until they were overthrown through the atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus Christ.))
More must be said regarding what Paul meant by not arriving at that law/Law. The Law did more than teach about righteousness, demand righteousness, and help those under the Law to see that the sin problem wasn't solved by the old covenant. ((I had a footnote: For one thing, as chapters 8-10 of the book of Hebrews show, the fact that the sacrificial offerings of the old covenant had to be offered repeatedly, day by day, year by year, made it very clear that the sin problem hadn't been solved yet. Those sacrifices were effective to atone for the sins of the sons of Israel that were not defiant, but they didn't have the power to solve the sin problem in the hearts of the worshippers, nor did they claim to have that power. The sons of Israel were still spiritually dead and in bondage to sin with the rest of Adam's offspring. The old covenant sacrifices couldn't take away the penalty of Adam's sin (very much including spiritual death and bondage to sin). Some of the key verses of Hebrews chapters 8-10 are discussed on pages 156-163 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." The book is available on my website and at amazon.com.))
Significantly, the Law also bore witness to the fact that the sin problem would be solved and the righteousness of God would be manifested through new-covenant salvation. For example, Rom. 3:21, 22 say, "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, BEING WITNESSED BY THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS, even the righteousness of God through faith in Christ for all those who believe" (cf., e.g., Isa. 32:15-18; 45:8; 46:12, 13; 53:11 [see pages 26-29 of my book on this super-important verse]; 56:1; 60:21; 61:1-3, 10, 11). (God's righteousness is manifested in the hearts and lives of those who submit to the gospel in faith.) And, significantly, Gal. 3:24 (also written by Paul) says, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor [child-conductor] to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified [be declared righteous and be made righteous by the imputed and imparted righteousness of God] by faith."
The Law required righteousness, but it is only faith in Christ and the gospel of new-covenant salvation that believers have in union with Him that enables us to live in the righteousness of God. Living in the righteousness of God includes fulfilling the requirements of the (moral) Law in our daily lives (cf., e.g., Rom. 2:26-29; 8:4; Jer. 31:31-34 [with Heb. 8:6-13; 10:10-18]; and Ezek. 36:25-27). ((I had a footnote: All of these super-important verses from Romans and Hebrews (with Jer. 31:31-34) are discussed in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" and/or my paper, "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism." Ezekiel 36:25-27, which are very important verses that prophesy of new-covenant salvation, don't really need any explanation, "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. (26) Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) AND I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU AND CAUSE YOU TO WALK IN MY STATUTES, AND YOU WILL BE CAREFUL TO OBSERVE MY ORDINANCES" [my emphasis].))
Although Christians don't put the emphasis on the Law (we put the emphasis on the plan of God, on His grace, His Spirit, His work, and on His glory), we are enabled and required to keep the (moral) Law in our daily lives (by grace through faith). One major qualification to this statement is that we are not required to keep the ceremonial parts of the Old Testament Law. These things are discussed in some detail in my paper titled, "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism."
We will finish the discussion under Rom. 9:31 and continue with this verse-by-verse study of Romans chapters 9-11 in Part 6 of this paper.
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