Romans 9

Romans 9:1

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,

(a) My conscience. Paul’s good conscience gave him the courage to stand up to those who opposed him because he was fully submitted to the Holy Spirit (Acts 23:1, 24:16). See entry for Conscience.

(b) Testifies with me. The conscience makes judgments based on knowledge, and the best source of knowledge is the Spirit of Truth. When the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that this is the way to go, and your conscience heeds this instruction, it will not matter what anybody else says. You will be convinced in your conscience that “God has said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”

Romans 9:3

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,

(a) Accursed. Paul wished he could be cut off from Christ if it meant the salvation of the Jews.

(b) My brethren. Paul’s Jewish brothers.

In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11). But here Paul is referring to his unsaved Jewish brothers, just as the author of Hebrews does (see entry for Hebrews 3:1).

(c) My kinsmen according to the flesh. “My people” or “my fellow Jews.”

Romans 9:4

who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,

The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

Romans 9:6

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;

(a) The word of God in this context refers to the revelation of God’s will that came to the Jews Old Testament through the law, the psalms and the prophets. See entry for Word of God.

(b) Has not failed. Although the Israelites had cut themselves off through unbelief (Rom. 11:20), God’s promises were as good as ever. If they would not be fulfilled in the natural branches (the natural descendants of Abraham, the Jews), they would be fulfilled in the grafted-in branches (the Gentiles).

(c) Not all Israel who are descended from Israel. A true Israelite is one who shares the faith of Abraham. He is the father of all who believe and are made righteous by faith (Rom. 4:11).

Romans 9:8

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

Children of God. Although God is the Father of all (Acts 17:29), the phrase “children of God” usually refers to believers (1 John 5:2), as is the case here. See entry for Children of God.

Romans 9:11

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,

Him who calls. In the first half of Romans, Paul highlights the call of God. “You are the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6), “called as saints” (Rom. 1:7). God’s call goes out to both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24–26). But in the second half of Romans, Paul highlights our call to God. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). The Lord abounds in riches for all who call on him (Rom. 10:12), but how will they call if they have not heard (Rom. 10:14)? Believers are those who having heard the call of God call to God and are saved.

Romans 9:13

Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

If God so loved the world (John 3:16), why does he hate Esau? He doesn’t. Paul is quoting an old prophecy (Mal. 1:2-3) to show how God chose one of the twins (Jacob) but not the other (Esau). The descendants of Jacob (the Israelites) received the favor of God but the descendants of Esau (the Edomites) did not. God chose Israel to display the riches of his glory to the world (Rom. 9:23). He was advertising, in other words. He blessed one nation so that they might reveal his goodness to others.

Sadly, the Israelites were not good ambassadors of God’s favor, but God’s plan was not thwarted. From among their number came Jesus who died for the whole world – including the descendants of Esau.

Further reading: “Why did God hate Esau and love Jacob?

Romans 9:15


Mercy… compassion. Mercy is showing compassion towards those in need. Like his grace, God’s mercy is unmerited and freely offered to all (Rom. 11:32). See entry for Mercy.

Romans 9:24

even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

He also called. God calls everyone to repentance (Acts 17:30). Those who respond in faith are called “the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:6).

Romans 9:29


(a) Isaiah. The prophecy comes from Isaiah 1:9 and 13:19.

(b) Sabaoth means armies or hosts (see Is. 1:9).

Romans 9:30

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;

(a) Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness. The Gentiles never tried to keep the law of righteousness because they did not have it.

(b) Pursue righteousness; see entry for 1 Tim. 6:11.

(c) The righteousness which is faith is the righteousness of God that is received by faith (see entry for Php. 3:9). This divine righteousness is sometimes referred to as the righteousness of faith or faith righteousness (Rom. 4:11, 13, 10:6, Heb. 11:7).

Romans 9:31

but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.

The law of righteousness refers to the so-called righteousness that comes from observing the Law of Moses (Rom. 10:5, Php. 3:6, 9). However, such a righteousness is not true righteousness because it is not based on faith, and anything that is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23, Gal. 3:11-12).

No one was ever justified or made righteous through their observance of the law (Rom. 9:31). If righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2:21). The law of righteousness can be distinguished from the law of faith which says we are justified by faith without regard for our works (Rom. 3:27-28).

Romans 9:32

Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,

(a) They stumbled. Just as the Galatians fell from grace when they put themselves under law (Gal. 5:4), the unbelieving Jews fell from their privileged position by pursuing works-based righteousness.

(b) The stumbling stone. Jesus is the cornerstone (Ps. 118:22, Is. 28:16, Zech. 10:4), the capstone (Zech. 4:7), and the living stone (1 Pet. 2:4) who is in the path of every person. Either we will fall on the stone broken in repentance (Matt. 21:44), or we will fall over the stone offended (see next verse). The unbelieving Jews were in the second group.

Romans 9:33


(a) Written: Paul quotes Isaiah’s messianic prophecy about the Stone that is a sanctuary to some and a cause of stumbling to others (Is. 8:14).

(b) Zion is another name for the city of God. It is the place God dwells, which in the new covenant is the body of Christ (see entry for Heb. 12:22).

(c) A rock of offense. The religious Jews were offended by Jesus.

Those who have invested their lives in works of righteousness are offended by the message of grace. They do not care to hear that their good works count for nothing or that Jesus is the friend of sinners.

(d) He who believes in him. What are we to do with this choice corner stone? We are to believe in him. There are many exhortations in the New Testament, but everything that makes the new covenant new is built on the revelation that God is good and he can be trusted, and this revelation comes to us through Jesus, the costly corner stone.

(e) Will not be disappointed. In his original prophecy, Isaiah says “He who believes in him will not be disturbed” or panicked or be in haste. Paul interprets this as “not be disappointed” or disgraced or put to shame. (Peter draws a similar conclusion in 1 Pet. 2:6.) There is a peace and security that comes from believing in Jesus. He will never abandon you, never let you go, and never let you down.

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