Q&A2000Q4A

 ROMANS 9:6-22

Could you please explain to me the meaning of Romans 9:6-22 in regards to God’s Sovereignty and Man’s freewill?

To be perfectly frank, my understanding is that this passage is not strictly dealing with the issue of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s freewill. In other words, this is not the issue that the passage is focusing upon. Rather it is setting forth corrective and proper doctrine regarding the reason behind why God has suspended His program and dealings with Israel following their stumbling at their Christ, and in doing so has turned to the Gentiles.

God’s Sovereignty is indeed set forth by Paul, but in the sense of His sovereign right to suspend Israel’s program. Likewise in the passage Paul also does cite the issue of election and the fact that it is based upon the issue of God’s calling and not on the basis of one’s works. However Paul does this because these two issues are involved in the overall doctrine that he is dealing with. But they are not the overall doctrine, per se.

Again the doctrine Paul is dealing with is the issue of the proper understanding and appreciation we are to have as to why God has suspended His program and dealings with Israel, and in connection with doing so has turned to the Gentiles.

A very simple and brief synopsis of my understanding of the passage goes like this: After setting forth and underscoring in 9:1-5 the reality of the fact that God has not fulfilled His program and purpose with Israel, (and also that Israel’s present standing before God is not what it once was), in verse 6 Paul begins to anticipate and deal with a series of common misconceptions (along with questions) that we might have about this. Misconceptions and questions, for example, as to why God has done this, whether it is fair or right for Him to have done so, what has happened to Israel in view of it, and the like.

Now the first misconception we could have is that “the word of God hath taken none effect” in God’s dealings with them. And this Paul responds to and deals with in verses 6-13.

As Paul sets forth and shows, though it may seem as though “the word of God hath taken none effect,” this is not the case at all. Rather all along in His program with Israel God’s word has been doing the very thing that God spoke about to Abraham when He said to him, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Hence God’s word has been taking the very effect that God said that He wanted it to take. And as such throughout His time past dealings with His nation it has been calling out of Israel those who will be utilized by Him to fulfill His ultimate plan and purpose with Israel on this earth.

Therefore in view of this it is wrong for us to think that God has done what He has done with Israel following their stumbling at Christ because His word did not take any effect with them. Since this is clearly not the case at all, the explanation for what He has done lies elsewhere.

In verses 14-18 Paul anticipates the next misconception, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” That is, if the reason doesn’t lie in God’s word taking none effect with Israel, is God then being unrighteous in what He has done with Israel? But again, as Paul sets forth, that is not the case at all either.

Notwithstanding His covenanted program with Israel, God has the right to be merciful and gracious and compassionate to whomsoever He will, including Gentiles. And He can do this even in spite of Israel. That God has reserved Himself the right to do something like this is made evident by what He said to Moses back in Exodus 33.

But not only this, as God also demonstrated with Pharaoh when He was in the process of bringing Israel out of Egypt, He also has reserved to Himself the right to delay fulfilling His declared purpose with Israel in order to accomplish another purpose that He has. This is something that He did when He hardened Pharaoh and through doing so did not immediately bring Israel out of Egypt.

Hence God is not being unrighteous at all in what He has done with Israel. In fact the proper understanding and appreciation that we are to have for what He has done with Israel lies in these two very issues: i.e. the issue of His mercy and the issue of His hardening in view of His plan for accomplishing an additional purpose. It is because God wants to show mercy to the Gentiles that He has suspended His program and dealings with Israel. And it is because He has an additional purpose to accomplish in connection with showing mercy to us Gentiles, that He hardened Israel in response to their unbelief regarding Christ.

Now in view of this being the case, in verses 19-29 Paul deals with a further anticipated objection that might arise, which is based upon the amount of time that God is taking in delaying the fulfillment of His program with Israel. And as Paul deals with the objection, he also underscores the fact that Israel’s present unfavorable and dishonorable standing before God will eventually be reversed by Him. When that occurs and at that time God will purge Israel as He has both promised and prophesied about, leaving in that day only the righteous element through which He will fulfill His ultimate plan and purpose with them on this earth.

Again the anticipated objection as set forth in verse 19 is based particularly upon the issue of the amount of time God is taking in both leaving Israel in its present unfavorable and dishonorable standing before Him and in showing mercy to the Gentiles. As the objection states, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” That is, why does God yet, or still, find fault (and not just go ahead and fulfill His covenanted purpose with Israel?) For who has resisted His will (and therefore prevented Him from successfully showing His mercy to the Gentiles, etc.?)

But as Paul declares, no one has the right to dispute with God about what He is doing, or how long He takes in doing it, etc. Howbeit regardless of how long it takes, God will reshape, so to speak, Israel back into the “vessel unto honour” that they used to be. And as Paul also underscores, He will then fulfill all of His promises regarding His work of purging them and leaving a righteous remnant of them through which He will fulfill His plan and purpose with them on this earth.

– K. R. Blades