The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

By G. Campbell Morgan

Chapter 16

III. OBJECTIONS DISCUSSED. Rom 9:1-31; Rom 10:1-21; Rom 11:1-36

i. ELECTION. Rom 9:1-31

a. INTRODUCTION. Rom 9:1-5

1. Paul. The Christian Israelite, Rom 9:1-3

a. The Solemn Affirmation. Rom 9:1

b. The Experience of Sorrow. Rom 9:2

c. Fellowship with Christ. Rom 9:3

2. Israel. According to Divine Economy. Rom 9:4-5

a. The Preparatory Economy. Rom 9:4-5 a

b. The Medium of Fulfillment. Rom 9:5 b

c. The Final Purpose. Rom 9:5 c


1. Successive Selections. Rom 9:6

2. Illustrations. Rom 9:7-13

a. Abraham.

Isaac, not Ishmael. Rom 9:7-9

b. Isaac.

Jacob, not Esau. Rom 9:10-13


1. Mercy according to the Divine Will. Rom 9:14-16

2. Judgment according to the Divine Will. Rom 9:17

3. The Principle declared. Rom 9:18


1. The active Operation. Rom 9:19-29

a. The Right. The Potter. Rom 9:19-21

The supposed Challenge. Rom 9:19-20

The illustrative Answer. Rom 9:21

b. The Exercise. Rom 9:22-24

Vessels of wrath. Rom 9:22

Vessels of mercy. Rom 9:23-24

c. According to Prophecy. Rom 9:25-29

Hosea. Rom 9:25-26

Isaiah. Rom 9:27-29

2. The determining Factor. Rom 9:30-33

a. "Gentiles . . . attained . . . of faith." Rom 9:30

b. "Israel . . did not arrive . . by works." Rom 9:31-33

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The great subject of the Gospel unto salvation is now completed. The condemnation resulting from sin which created the need for the Gospel has been vividly set forth. The great provision of salvation in its threefold aspect of justification, sanctification, and glorification has been carefully described. Before passing to that application of the truth wherein he dealt with the transformation by salvation, the apostle paused to deal with certain objections. It must be remembered that these objections are such as would be raised by Hebrews, and not by Gentiles. All that the former part of his letter had insisted upon, must inevitably have swept away all possibility of confidence on the part of Israelites in those things in which from birth they had made their boast. It was natural and almost inevitable that such questions as those now to be dealt with, should arise in their minds. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, would naturally be immediately conscious of such difficulties, and therefore proceeded to deal with them, in order to show the relation of the new economy to the old, and to demonstrate the fact that there was no departure on the part of God from the perpetual method of His operation, and no injustice in His reception of the Gentile.

He discussed three subjects, those namely of the Divine method of election; of the rejection of Israel according to the flesh; and of its ultimate restoration.


In dealing with the first difficulty, that namely of God's election of His ancient people, the apostle first laid bare his heart as a Christian Israelite; and then discussed the subject of election as to its operation, its principle, and its sovereignty.


The connection between this very remarkable passage, and the climax of the preceding chapter is close, and we can only understand the meaning of the apostle as it is observed.

The great certainty that there can be no separation between the trusting soul and the love of God is the experience of one in close experimental fellowship with the Lord through the ministry of the Spirit. The fullness of spiritual life is that of full consciousness of the mind of Christ. The tides of His life flowing through all the being of the apostle; his desires, impulses, and activities were those of the Lord Who dwelt in Him. This is the meaning of the opening words of affirmation, "I say the truth in Christ." That which he was about to declare, resulted from the fact that Christ was the sphere of his life. To this affirmation he added weight by claiming the witness of his conscience in the Holy Spirit. This solemn opening affirmation gives us the key to what else were inexplicable; his great sorrow, his increasing pain, his very desire to be anathema, all resulted from, and indeed were parts of the Christ-consciousness which held and mastered him. It was Christ's sorrow, Christ's increasing pain, Christ's readiness to be anathema, of which he was the conscious partner, and to which he now gave expression. No man could have written such words save as he was indwelt and dominated by Christ through the Holy Spirit. No man so indwelt and dominated could escape such consciousness.

The first expression of his Christ-created compassion was toward his brethren. This is a glorious illustration of a perpetual truth. The man who had given up his brethren for Christ's sake, now held them in a new love and compassion, compared with which the old earthly affection was as nothing. The love of kindred and friends which counts their friendship and fellowship as of more value than those of Christ, is after all self-centered, the love of the publican and the sinner, set upon those who love us, because they love us, and on account of what they give us. The love of kindred and friends which results from a supreme love for Christ, is disinterested, and goes out to them in spite of the fact that they have ceased to give us anything but persecution and pain. This is true, high, holy love; the love that never fails.

The great value of this passage is discovered when it is remembered that almost all the pain and suffering of the apostle resulted from the bitter hatred and opposition of those very kinsmen whom he had given up for Christ, and for whom he had found a new love through relationship to Him.

With a fine art the apostle approached the discussion of the difficulties of his brethren by a description of Israel according to the Divine economy, which description recognized their high privileges and conspicuous glory.

Looking back, in briefest words he stated the Divinity of the original preparatory economy. Theirs was the adoption, - they were peculiarly called to the relationship of children; the glory, - among them God dwelt, manifesting His presence by the Shekinah splendour; the covenants, - Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic; the giving of the law, - the ethical code; the service, - all the symbolic ritual of their worship; the promises, - of the coming King and Kingdom; the fathers, - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Recognizing that all these things were preparatory, and that they had their fulfillment in the mission of Messiah, he then declared that this highest of all glories, that of providing the Messiah on the side of His human life, was theirs also, in the words, "of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh." All the former things had pointed to Him, and in Him they found their fulfillment.

Thus ultimately that history of Israel which was Divine in its initiation, was Divine also in its consummation, for the Christ Who, concerning the flesh, came from them, is infinitely more than human, being "over all, God blessed for ever"; and thus the final purpose of their history is stated in a word descriptive of Christ, that purpose being, that God Who is over all, should be blessed for ever.


The word "But" with which this paragraph opens, at once suggests the contrast between the glorious facts concerning Israel which the apostle had recognized, and that of the present experience of Israel which caused him the keen sorrow of which he had written.

It would appear as though the Word of God had come to nought; as though in order to the fulfillment of His purpose, He had violated a principle. It was admitted that He had elected this nation. How then was the fact of their rejection as a nation to be accounted for?

With this problem he proceeded to deal, affirming first that the promises made to Israel were made not to a people after the flesh. This must have been to the ears of a Jew a most astonishing assertion, and the apostle proceeded to defend it in an unanswerable fashion. Declaring that "they are not all Israel that are of Israel; neither because they are Abraham's seed are they all children," he taught that the operation of election had been that of successive selections from among those springing from one source, so far as the flesh was concerned.

In illustration of this he showed that while Isaac and Ishmael were both related to Abraham, Isaac was the selected child; and that while Jacob and Esau were both sons of Isaac, Jacob was selected. Thus it is evident from the history of Israel from its commencement, that not all the children of Abraham constituted the nation, nor all the children of Isaac. The selection in each case, however, was not capricious, but based upon an underlying purpose of God, which the apostle described as the purpose of God according to election. What that purpose was, can only be understood as this section of the epistle is perpetually interpreted by the whole scheme of the argument, and by other of the apostolic writings. In referring to the Divine choice of God, when writing to the Ephesians, the apostle said, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should he holy and without blemish before Him in love." Thus the purpose of election was character, and therefore from among the children of Abraham according to the flesh, God made selection of such as believed, because through faith, character is formed.


To such a statement as this, objection would at once be raised, and recognizing it, the apostle stated it in the form of a question. "Is there unrighteousness with God?" The suggestion of that inquiry is that if a man who may have lived a profligate life is yet to be received, on account of his faith only, while a man whose life has been outwardly moral, is to be cast out on account of unbelief, there is at least the appearance of injustice on the part of God.

Such a question would necessarily be that of some one who had not perfectly understood the early arguments of the letter concerning the sin of man, and the provision which God has made for his salvation.

To the supposed difficulty the apostle first replied in an emphatic negative, and then reminded his readers of the Divine declaration to Moses, and so revealed the fact that the underlying principle of the action of God is that of His mercy and compassion. The argument here is for the right of God to extend that mercy according to His own will. Although the deeper facts are not here stated they must not be forgotten, for everything depends upon perpetual recognition of them. God exercises His mercy toward those who believe. That is a statement made elsewhere, and not repeated here, which nevertheless must not be lost sight of, if there is to be any true understanding of this otherwise difficult declaration.

As mercy then is according to the Divine will, so also is judgment; and the apostle illustrated the fact by the case of Pharaoh, of whom he spoke as of one upon whom God did not have mercy, but whom He hardened. Here again we have simply the declaration of the fact that the principle of election is that of the will of God, nothing being said concerning the reason or the method of its exercise. It is most important, however, that we should clearly understand the meaning of the declaration, "For this very purpose did I raise thee up,'' which does not mean that He created Pharaoh for the purpose of hardening his heart. The expression "raise up" signifies, not the creating of the man, but his making conspicuous in the eyes of the ages. The declaration of the apostle then is, that God chose to make this man, before the eyes of all time, an example of the result of unbelief and willful setting of the heart against the right. While it is true that God hardened him, it is first true that Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord; and God's hardening consisted merely, as it ever does, in His abandoning of the man to the conditions necessarily arising as the result of his own deliberate choice.

The closing declaration of this paragraph reveals that the principle of election is that God acts in mercy toward whom He will, and in judgment toward whom He will. Again it is necessary to insist on the fact that He always acts in conformity with His nature of love, and that His mercy is extended to such as believe, and His hardening to such as harden themselves against Him.


Out of this grows another difficulty. If God hardens, why does He still find fault? He gets His way, and no one can withstand His will. In answer to this suggested difficulty, the apostle insisted upon the absolute sovereignty of God, dealing first with its active operation, and then reaffirming the determining factor.

1. The active Operation

The statement of the sovereignty of God is now, if possible, even more emphatic than it has been. Paul borrowed the illustration of Jeremiah, of the potter and the clay, familiar to all Jewish ears; boldly declaring the right of the potter to make what he will of the clay in his hands. Here again, however, it is most necessary to insist upon a recognition of the fact that this figure, in common with all the other argument, must be interpreted by the character of God. We sadly abuse the passage unless we ever bear in mind that the lesson of the potter and the clay is not learned when we think merely of the right of the potter. We must also have in mind Himself, His character, His avowed purpose. It is perfectly true, and needs to be emphasized, that man could have had no right to complain against the absolute justice of God had He swept the sinning race away without opportunity of redemption. The sooner this is granted the better it will be for all our thinking, and for all our living. At the same time this right must be interpreted by the fact that He did not do so, but that He exercised His sovereignty by providing a salvation for man out of his ruin and degradation. Therefore if at last any shall be cast away, it will not be because God has exercised the right; of His justice merely, but because such have refused to avail themselves of the salvation provided by the right of His mercy.

The exercise of this sovereignty in the case of the vessels of wrath is, that in order to reveal the true nature and reason of that wrath, He endured them with much longsuffering. The exercise of this sovereignty in the case of the vessels of mercy is, that in order to make known the riches of His grace, He prepared them unto glory.

Thus in each case the infinite patience and tenderness of God is manifested. His wrath waits in the case of such as are vessels of wrath, until by their own choice and action they are "fitted unto destruction"; and in the case of the vessels of mercy. He prepares them unto glory, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. It is of supreme importance that all that is mysterious in these passages which affirm the sovereignty of God, should be interpreted by the facts concerning Him, which have been revealed to men in the Person of His Son.

By two quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures, the apostle re-affirmed the fact of Divine election. It is to be noticed that the quotation from Hosea is used in a wider sense than by the prophet himself. In the actual prophecy the reference was to the ten tribes, but in harmony with the whole teaching of his letter, Paul referred to all such as were, according to the flesh, outside the covenant, that is, to the Gentiles. Those who were not the people of God are to be made His people, and are to be brought into the place of covenant blessing. This is simply a matter of Divine choice.

Then in a quotation from Isaiah he reemphasized what he had previously declared, that not all Israel after the flesh shall be saved, but a remnant only. This again is by Divine choice.

2. The determining Factor

In conclusion, the apostle declared the reason of the determining choice in each case. The Gentiles are chosen to become the people of God as they attain righteousness by faith. Israel as a whole, seeking to establish a righteousness apart from faith, fails. Thus the choice of God is of such as believe. The test is the Son of His love. To those seeking righteousness by works, He is a rock of offence. To the believing He is salvation, and they shall not be put to shame.

Thus while it is perfectly true that men are chosen of God to salvation, irrespective of their national relationship, or even of their morality; it is equally true that only such are chosen as believe on Him Whom God has provided for human salvation.