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God’s Election of Israel


I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written,

“I have loved Jacob,

but I have hated Esau.”

14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

16 So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

God’s Wrath and Mercy

19 You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ”my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”


“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they shall be called children of the living God.”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,

we would have fared like Sodom

and been made like Gomorrah.”

Israel’s Unbelief

30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

In this chapter he begins to remove the offences which might have diverted the minds of men from Christ: for the Jews, for whom he was appointed according to the covenant of the law, not only rejected him, but regarded him with contempt, and for the most part bated him. Hence one of two things seemed to follow, — either that there was no truth in the Divine promise, — or that Jesus, whom Paul preached, was not the Lord’s anointed, who had been especially promised to the Jews. This twofold knot Paul fully unties in what follows. He, however, so handles this subject, as to abstain from all bitterness against the Jews, that he might not exasperate their minds; and yet he concedes to them nothing to the injury of the gospel; for he allows to them their privileges in such a way, as not to detract anything from Christ. But he passes, as it were abruptly, to the mention of this subject, so that there appears to be no connection in the discourse. 283283     The connection seems to be this: he had been speaking of the impossibility of separating God’s people from the protecting influence and preserving power of his love; he had clearly shown, that no divorce or separation can take place through any possible circumstances. Then the Jews might say, “If this be true, then we are safe, we are still God’s people.” Hence he proceeds to remove this objection, and in order to prepare their mind to receive what he is going to say and to prove, he speaks first of his deep concern for their welfare: and then he resumes the doctrine he touched upon in Romans 8:28, 29, and 30, and illustrates it by a reference to the past dealings of God with the Jews, and proves it by passages from the ancient Prophets. He shows that God’s people are the called according to his purpose, and not all who wear the outward symbol of his covenant — Ed. He, however, so enters on this new subject, as though he had before referred to it. It so happened in this way, — Having finished the doctrine he discussed, he turned his attention to the Jews, and being astonished at their unbelief as at something monstrous, he burst forth into this sudden protestation, in the same way as though it was a subject which he had previously handled; for there was no one to whom this thought would not of itself immediately occur, — “If this be the doctrine of the law and the Prophets, how comes it that the Jews so pertinaciously reject it?” And further, it was everywhere known, that all that he had hitherto spoken of the law of Moses, and of the grace of Christ, was more disliked by the Jews, than that the faith of the Gentiles should be assisted by their consent. It was therefore necessary to remove this obstacle, lest it should impede the course of the gospel.

1. The truth I say in Christ, etc. As it was an opinion entertained by most that Paul was, as it were, a sworn enemy to his own nation, and as it was suspected somewhat even by the household of faith, as though he had taught them to forsake Moses, he adopts a preface to prepare the minds of his readers, before he proceeds to his subject, and in this preface he frees himself from the false suspicion of evil will towards the Jews. And as the matter was not unworthy of an oath, and as he perceived that his affirmation would hardly be otherwise believed against a prejudice already entertained, he declares by an oath that he speaks the truth. By this example and the like, (as I reminded you in the first chapter,) we ought to learn that oaths are lawful, that is, when they render that truth credible which is necessary to be known, and which would not be otherwise believed.

The expression, In Christ, means “according to Christ.” 284284     “Idem valet ac secundum Christum, — it is the same with According to Christ;” “λέγω ἐν Χριστῳ — I speak in Christ,” that is, as a Christian; to be in Christ and to be a Christian is the same. This idea bears on the import of the passage more than any other. It is as though he said, “Though I am in Christ or a Christian, yet I tell you this as the truth or the fact, and I have the testimony of conscience enlightened by the Spirit, that I have great grief and unceasing sorrow on your account.” The Jews had the impression that the Apostle, having become the follower of Christ, must have necessarily entertained hatred towards them, and must have therefore felt no concern for them; for this is really the case with all real apostates, that is, with those who leave the truth for error, but not with them who leave error for the truth. To obviate this impression seems to have been the object here. How the idea of an oath comports with what follows it is difficult to see. It is no argument to say that what is here means the same as in Matthew 5:34, where it follows the verb “to swear.” There is a passage similar to this in Ephesians 4:17; but ἐν κυρίῳ there clearly signifies “by the Lord’s authority.” We may add, that to swear by Christ would have had no influence on the Jews. — Ed. By adding I lie not, he signifies that he speaks without fiction or disguise. My conscience testifying to me, etc. By these words he calls his own conscience before the tribunal of God, for he brings in the Spirit as a witness to his feeling. He adduced the Spirit for this end, that he might more fully testify that he was free and pure from an evil disposition, and that he pleaded the cause of Christ under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of God. It often happens that a person, blinded by the passions of the flesh, (though not purposing to deceive,) knowingly and wilfully obscures the light of truth. But to swear by the name of God, in a proper sense of the word, is to call him as a witness for the purpose of confirming what is doubtful, and at the same time to bind ourselves over to his judgment, in case we say what is false.

2. That I have great sorrow, etc. He dexterously manages so to cut short his sentence as not yet to express what he was going to say; for it was not as yet seasonable openly to mention the destruction of the Jewish nation. It may be added, that he thus intimates a greater measure of sorrow, as imperfect sentences are for the most part full of pathos. But he will presently express the cause of his sorrow, after having more fully testified his sincerity.

But the perdition of the Jews caused very great anguish to Paul, though he knew that it happened through the will and providence of God. We hence learn that the obedience we render to God’s providence does not prevent us from grieving at the destruction of lost men, though we know that they are thus doomed by the just judgment of God; for the same mind is capable of being influenced by these two feelings: that when it looks to God it can willingly bear the ruin of those whom he has decreed to destroy; and that when it turns its thoughts to men, it condoles with their evils. They are then much deceived, who say that godly men ought: to have apathy and insensibility, (ἀπάθειαν καὶ ἀναλγησίαν) lest they should resist the decree of God.

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