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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 1
ROMANS Chapter 9 Introduction
THIS chapter opens, in some degree, a new train of thought and argumentation. Its main design probably was to meet objections which would be alleged against the positions advanced and defended in the previous parts of the epistle. In the previous chapters, Paul had defended the position, that the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles had been removed; that the Jews could not be saved by any external advantages which they possessed; that all were alike guilty before God; and that there was but one way for Jews and Gentiles of salvation—by faith in Jesus Christ, chapters 1-3. He had stated the benefits of this plan, (chap. 5.,) and showed its bearing in accomplishing what the law of Moses could not effect in overcoming sin, chap. 6,7. In chap. 8. he had stated also on what principles this was clone; that it was according to the purpose of God—the principle of electing mercy applied indiscriminately to the mass of guilty Jews and Gentiles. To this statement two objections might arise: first, that it was unjust; and second, that the whole argument involved a departure from the promises made to the Jewish nation. It might further be supposed that the apostle had ceased to feel an interest in his countrymen, and had become the exclusive advocate of the Gentiles. To meet these objections and feelings seems to have been the design of this chapter. He shows them,
(1.) his unabated love for his countrymen, and regard for their welfare, (Ro 9:1-5)
(2.) He shows them, from their own writings, that the principle of election had existed in former times—in the case of Isaac, (Ro 9:7-13) in the writings of Moses, (Ro 9:15) in the case of Pharaoh, (Ro 9:17) and in the prophecies of Hosea and Isaiah, (Ro 9:25-29.)
(3.) He takes occasion, throughout the chapter, to vindicate this principle of the Divine administration; to answer objections; and to show that, on the acknowledged principles of the Old Testament, a part of the Jewish nation might be rejected; and that it was the purpose of God to call others to the privileges of the people of God, Ro 9:16,19-23,25,26,29-33.
The chapter, therefore, has not reference to national election, or to choice to external privileges, but has direct reference to the doctrine of the election to salvation which had been stated in chap. 8. To suppose that it refers merely to external privileges, and national distinctions, makes the whole discussion unconnected, unmeaning, and unnecessary.
Verse 1. I say the truth. In what I am about to affirm respecting my attachment to the nation and people.
In Christ. Most interpreters regard this as a form of an oath, as equivalent to calling Christ to witness. It is certainly to be regarded, in its obvious sense, as an appeal to Christ as the searcher of the heart, and as the judge of falsehood. Thus the word translated "in" (en) is used in the form of an oath in Mt 5:34-36; Re 10:6, Greek. We are to remember that the apostle was addressing those who had been Jews; and the expression has all the force of an oath by the Messiah. This shows that it is right, on great and solemn occasions, and in a solemn manner, AND THUS ONLY, to appeal to Christ for the sincerity of our motives, and for the truth of what we say. And it shows, further, that it is right to regard the Lord Jesus Christ as present with us, as searching the heart, as capable of detecting insincerity, hypocrisy, and perjury, and as therefore Divine.
My conscience. Conscience is that act of judgment of the mind by which we decide on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our actions, and by which we instantly approve or condemn them. It exists in every man, and is a strong witness to our integrity or to our guilt.
Bearing me witness. Testifying to the truth of what I say.
In the Holy Ghost. He does not say that he speaks the truth by or in the Holy Ghost, as he had said of Christ; but that the conscience pronounced its concurring testimony by the Holy Ghost; that is, conscience as enlightened and influenced by the Holy Ghost. It was not simply natural conscience, but it was conscience under the full influence of the Enlightener of the mind and Sanctifier of the heart. The reasons of this solemn asseveration are probably the following:
(1.) His conduct and his doctrines had led some to believe that he was an apostate, and had lost his love for his countrymen. He had forsaken their institutions, and devoted himself to the salvation of the Gentiles. He here shows them that it was from no want of love to them.
(2.) The doctrines which he was about to state and defend were of a similar character; he was about to maintain that no small part of his own countrymen, notwithstanding their privileges, would be rejected and lost. In this solemn manner, therefore, he assures them that this doctrine had not been embraced because: he did not love them, but because it was solemn, though most painful-truth. He proceeds to enumerate their privileges as a people, and to show to them the strength and tenderness of his love.
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