1I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,
2that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.
3For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
Switching gears, Paul goes on to share about how his heart breaks for the people of Israel because of their hardness of heart. He goes so far as to say that he wishes that his own soul was in jeopardy of hell if only his physical brethren of Israel would repent and trust in Christ for their salvation. His sorrow and grief over the eternal destiny for Israel serves as a great example of how we should feel over the lost.
4who 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,
5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Israel was called out by God to be His people. They had the covenants and were given the Law. They were given promise after promise, most importantly the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 12. They had the temple and priests of God to do service in His presence. They had the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through whose line Christ descended. They had the great kings, most importantly David, through whose line Christ came. Christ is over them all, yet they do not respond in faith to Him, having rejected Him by and large as the Messiah. Christ is blessed by God forever, but what about the nation of Israel?
6But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
7nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED."
8That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
9For this is the word of promise: "AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON."
Even though Israel has rejected Christ, it is not as though God’s promise to Abraham to make him a father of many peoples has failed. Indeed, not all who are descended of Abraham are just Israelite by descent. Those who followed Abraham’s example of saving faith are also considered to be his offspring.
10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
11for 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,
12it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER."
13Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."
Paul explains how Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, had two sons who were twins, Esau and Jacob. A prophecy was given concerning the twins before they were even born that the older would serve the younger. This was before either had made any choices for good or for evil. This demonstrates again that faith is not on the basis of works, but on the God who calls one to saving faith. He knows beforehand who will make the right choices and who will respond in faith to the sacrifice of Christ. The issue ultimately is God who must ultimately get the glory for any person’s salvation. He is the author of faith (Hebrews 12:2). God hated Esau but loved Jacob. One would follow God and the other wouldn’t. God knew that and without overriding free will, ordained one for good and one for evil.
14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!
15For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION."
16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Paul, deflecting an objection that he assumes the reader would make, says that God is not unjust to allow one to be ordained for good and the other to be ordained for evil. This is an area where God has the final say and the only ability to understand how the whole process of salvation comes together. He will have compassion on those whom He wants and He will have mercy on those whom He wants. Salvation is ultimately in the hand of God, though He desires all men to come to know Him. Thus, it is not Biblical to conclude that God forces or sentences someone to hell. God lets every man make their own choices, though He is sovereign over all things. How the two coexist is beyond our ability to understand, but we must take it by faith. Salvation is ultimately an act of God who initiated love in sending Christ and who calls men to respond to Him. It is not based first and foremost upon man’s will or ability to make decisions. It is first about the God who wills all things according to His good pleasure.
17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH."
18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Scripture says repeatedly that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh was an instrument in God’s hand to accomplish His purposes. As Proverbs 21:1 says, God turns the heart of the king wherever He wishes. God used Pharaoh to proclaim His own name. If Pharaoh had repented and relented, then God wouldn’t have had to do all ten plagues or cause the sea to be divided. God’s plan from the beginning was to showcase His power and His love for Israel. He had just allowed Israel to be enslaved for 400 years in Egypt. Why did He do that? We don’t know, other than it made the exit from Egypt all the more wonderful and memorable. It served as a testimony to surrounding nations and as a point of remembrance for the people of Israel. God has mercy as He desires and hardens hearts as He desires. It is His prerogative. Man still makes decisions and is responsible. The two dynamics coexist, but ultimately God does everything to His own glory and so should we.
19You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?"
Paul anticipates a reasonable and logical objection at this point. Why would God still find fault if He has caused a person to harden his heart? Why is the person still responsible for something that God has done? After all, if God wills something, who can possibly resist it?
20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
Yet this is like the answer God gave Job about why he allowed all of the suffering to come into his life- He didn’t. God didn’t give an answer, and He is not forced to have to explain how all of these things work together. If He did, it would probably cause our brains to short out. It is not our position to tell God how to run the universe. It is not our prerogative to say to God, “Why have you made me like this or done so and so?” God will do as He wishes, and we must submit to His sovereignty in the universe. He is not mocked. Man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7). This is only possible if God is in complete control over all things in the universe, including the state of man’s hearts.
21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
It makes no sense for the clay which has been molded to tell the potter that he is making it wrong. The potter is the brains behind the operation; the clay is subject to the will and mercy of the potter. It is the same with our Heavenly Father. We are but dust, and to dust we will return. What He makes of our lives is in His hands. We must choose to live by faith and trust Him as He gives us grace to do so. Grace wouldn’t be grace if we could will our way to faith and repentance. Any Christian is a result of the mercy of God at work. God has the right to make one pot for honorable use and another for dishonor. Paul explains that God is very likely willing to go ahead and pour out His wrath immediately upon the vessels of dishonor who sin and deserve God’s punishment because they reject Him as God. Paul explains that it may be that God allows the dishonorable vessels to exist so that He can showcase His mercy to the honorable vessels. By allowing the vessels of wrath to go unpunished for a time, it allows God to demonstrate His power in being able to save men in His mercy. All men would end up in hell if it wasn’t for the mercy of God. Hell is perfectly just. Where God’s mercy comes in is that some men are saved.
23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
God does this so that He can make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared and ordained beforehand for glory. These vessels are believers who are both Jews and Gentiles.
25As He says also in Hosea,
"I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, 'MY PEOPLE,'
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, 'BELOVED.'"
26"AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,'
THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD."
Hosea prophecies clearly that those who had not been chosen as the people of God would be given the opportunity to become the people of God, being called beloved of God. God would extend His grace and mercy beyond Israel to the Gentiles. This was His sovereign plan all along.
27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED;
28FOR THE LORD WILL EXECUTE HIS WORD ON THE EARTH, THOROUGHLY AND QUICKLY."
Isaiah makes it clear that though Israel had become a mighty nation on the earth consisting of multitudes of people, it is only a remnant that would be saved. Most of Israel rejected Christ and thus the Lord must judge even His own Jewish people who reject Him. He will save a remnant from the great tribulation or else they all would be killed (Zechariah 8).
29And 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."
Isaiah explains that unless God has mercifully left Israel a remnant of the faithful, they would have resembled the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. Even Israel who were God’s chosen people, left to themselves needed the mercy of God, or they too would be destined for hell. Man is in a predicament because of sin. God must showcase His glory and love through Christ and in calling some to be His children. He wishes that all would respond to Him, but He will not force a person to love Him. Even Paul himself, despite the dramatic intervention in his life, could have still rejected Christ. Any person’s conversion is a result of the mercy of God working in their heart to give them the grace to respond in faith to the message of the gospel. All believers are testimonies to God’s grace and mercy.
30What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;
31but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.
The Gentiles found mercy, though not all of them, because they pursued righteousness which is attained by faith. Israel missed salvation by and large because they relied in their own morality and religious performance to make them righteous. They didn’t respond in faith like their father Abraham did.
32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
33just as it is written,
"BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE,
AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
Israel pursued a salvation by works and not by faith and thus stumbled over the stumbling stone of Christ. God put salvation right in their midst in Christ, a Jew, and yet they did not receive Him. His teaching caused them to be offended because they trusted in their adherence to the Law to save them. Christ showed them the true state of their hearts, and they didn’t like it. Thus they had him killed on the cross. Yet all men are responsible for putting Him on the cross because of their sin. If a person then repents of their sin and believes in Him, unlike Israel, they will be saved and not disappointed.