Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Romans 9:11-18
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Romans 9:11-13
vs11-13 (continued): As we read this passage it’s very important to keep in mind Paul’s overall topic. He is not using Jacob and Esau to illustrate how individuals are saved. They provide an analogy to represent the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews are the older brother, Esau, and the Gentiles are the younger brother, Jacob. Just as Abraham’s promise went to the younger twin, rather than the older, so it was turning out with the gospel. A group of newcomers with no historic claim to the Messiah were receiving Abraham’s promise rather than Israel. Just as Jacob had seized this promise because his older brother lacked faith, so it was with believing Gentiles. Based on their previous lifestyles they deserved nothing but God’s wrath, yet here they were inheriting the blessing meant for the “elder brother.”

Monday: Romans 9:11-13
vs11-13 (continued): Paul’s purpose in these chapters is to explain why so many Jews had failed to believe in Jesus, while at the same time Gentiles were coming in droves. At the end of this chapter he gives an unmistakable answer to this question, and it’s not sovereign election (Ro 9:30-33). He says the underlying problem was that many Jews had refused to humble themselves and accept God’s righteousness as a gift given to those with faith. They preferred trying to earn righteousness by zealously keeping the law. If Paul’s analogy about Jacob and Esau is removed from it’s context and interpreted as a model for individual salvation it can be forced to teach a doctrine opposed to all that Paul teaches before and after it. This violates the integrity of the passage.

Tuesday: Romans 9:14
v14: Paul anticipates someone challenging his conclusion that God gives Abraham’s promise (righteousness, eternal life) to anyone with faith. On the surface this seems unfair. How can it be just when a group of people who are trying to obey God’s law don’t become righteous, while another group who have lived wildly immoral lives and weren’t even searching for Him do. Surely trying to obey the Bible ought to count for something. But Paul warns we need to be careful not to set ourselves in judgment over God. While, to the human mind, this might seem unjust, it’s not. God is never unjust, and it’s not unjust of Him to give mercy to people who don’t deserve it. He can give mercy to anyone who repents and believes because He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins (Ro 3:21-26).

Wednesday: Romans 9:15, 16
v15: Paul quotes God’s statement to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will pity whomever I pity” (Ex 33:19; literal); and as we read it we should recall that He said this after Moses begged that mercy be given to those who had just worshipped a golden calf (Ex 32:8-10), and God gave them mercy. v16: So it’s not up to us to decide to whom God will or will not give mercy. Nor can we force Him to give mercy by deciding we will zealously keep His law. He has the right to set His own standard, and He has chosen to grant mercy to those who repent and believe regardless of their background.

Thursday: Romans 9:17
v17: God also reserves the right to force those who refuse to repent to serve Him, and it is just for Him to do so because He uses them to spread His reputation so more people can hear about Him and be saved. Pharaoh was a perfect example of this. God took a hard-hearted king (Ex 7:14) and actually “hardened” his resolve even further. He gave Pharaoh courage so he wouldn’t cave in to Moses’ demands out of fear. After observing one or two of those plagues a normal person would have let Israel go because they were afraid of the next plague. The motive behind their decision would be simple self-preservation, not repentance. By strengthening Pharaoh’s resolve God empowered him to keep on saying “no!” This made it possible for God to perform a series of remarkable miracles (Ex 7:3) which enhanced His reputation in Egypt (Ex 7:5) and the surrounding nations (Ex 9:16; 15:14-16). In a sense this was an early form of evangelism.

Friday: Romans 9:18
v18: Taken out of context this verse sounds arbitrary and harsh, as if God has the right to be kind or cruel to whomever He desires without any regard to that person’s choices or behavior. But when placed back into its larger context its meaning becomes obvious. We hear Paul affirming that God has the right to give mercy to repentant Gentiles (Ro 10:12, 13) and also to use the hostility of the Jews to propel the gospel toward them (Ro 11:15, 25, 28). Examples of this “hardness” at work can be seen by reading: Acts 13:43-51; 14:2, 19, 27; 17:5-9, 13; 18:5, 6, 12, 13; 19:8, 9; 20:2, 3; 21:11, 27-31; 28:17, 18, 23-29.

Saturday: Romans 9:18
v18 (continued): God uses human rebellion, and may even give someone with a hard heart the courage to be even more stubborn, if such stubbornness serves His saving purposes, but He certainly doesn’t cause spiritual rebellion. In the first chapter of this letter Paul described how He dealt with Gentile cultures. He is careful to point out these Gentile cultures deliberately “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Ro 1:18, 19, 21). He says they receive “the due penalty of their error” (v27) and notes they “did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” (v28). Throughout this discussion we see God justly punishing those who have chosen to rebel against Him. Nothing in this discussion even hints that God would do this without cause. In his Lamentations Jeremiah warns that God will harden the hearts of those who persecuted him because they attacked him without cause, “My enemies without cause hunted me down like a bird…” (La 3:52). He says, “You will recompense them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. You will give them hardness of heart, your curse will be on them” (La 3:64, 65). 

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