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9. God's Sovereign Choice

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. 27Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 29And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. 30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

5. Whose are the fathers, etc. It is indeed of some importance to be descended from saints and men beloved of God, since God promised to the godly fathers mercy with regard to their children, even to thousand generations, and especially in the words addressed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as we find in Genesis 17:4, and in other passages. It matters not, that this by itself, when separated from the fear of God and holiness of life, is vain and useless: for we find the same to have been the case as to worship and glory, as it is evident everywhere in the prophets, especially in Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 60:1; and also in Jeremiah 7:4. But, as God dignified these things, when joined with attention to godliness, with some degree of honor, he justly enumerated them among the privileges of the Jews. They are indeed said to be the heirs of the promises for this very reason, — because they descended from the fathers. (Acts 3:25.)

From whom, is Christ, etc. They who apply this to the fathers, as though Paul meant only to say that Christ had descended from the fathers, have no reason to allege: for his object was to close his account of the pre-eminence of the Jews by this encomium, — that Christ proceeded from them; for it was not a thing to be lightly esteemed, to have been united by a natural relationship with the Redeemer of the world; for if he had honored the whole human race, in joining himself to us by a community of nature, much more did he honor them, with whom he had a closer bond of union. It must at the same time be always maintained, that when this favor of being allied by kindred is unconnected with godliness, it is so far from being an advantage, that on the contrary it leads to a greater condemnation.

But we have here a remarkable passage, — that in Christ two natures are in such a manner distinguished, that they are at the same time united in the very person of Christ: for by saying that Christ had descended from the Jews, he declared his real humanity. The words according to the flesh, which are added, imply that he had something superior to flesh; and here seems to be an evident distinction made between humanity and divinity. But he at last connects both together, where he says, that the Christ, who had descended from the Jew’s according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever.

We must further observe, that this ascription of praise belongs to none but only to the true and eternal God; for he declares in another place, (1 Timothy 1:17,) that it is the true God alone to whom honor and glory are due. They who break off this clause from the previous context, that they may take away from Christ so clear a testimony to his divinity, most presumptuously attempt, to introduce darkness in the midst of the clearest light; for the words most evidently mean this, — Christ, who is from the Jews according to the flesh, is God blessed for ever 289289     Stuart has in a most convincing manner vindicated the true and obvious meaning of this clause. There is no reading of any authority, nor any early version, that affects the genuineness of the received text: and it is amazing what ingenuity has been exercised by various critics to evade the plain construction of the passage, — a remarkable instance of the debasing power of preconceived notions. It is somewhat singular too, that some who professed at least the doctrine of Christ’s divinity, such as Erasmus, Whitby, and Locke, have attempted to make changes in the text, and those for the most part conjectural, by which the obvious meaning is wholly altered.
   It is very clearly shown by Stuart, that the very position of the words, and their connection with the context, will admit of no other construction than that which our version contains.

   It is well known, that in Hebrew the word “blessed” is always placed before “God,” or Jehovah, when it is an ascription of praise; and it appears that the Septuagint has in more than thirty instances followed the same order, and, indeed, in every instance except one, (Psalm 68:19,) and that evidently a typographical mistake. The same is the case with all the examples in the New Testament. So that if the phrase here was a doxology, it must have been written εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεός. In the Welsh language, which in many of its idioms is identically the same with the Hebrew, the order of the words is the same: when it is a doxology, the word “blessed” invariably precedes the word “God;” and when otherwise it follows it.

   The opinion of Chrysostom on this sentence, to which Erasmus attaches some importance, is of no value whatever, as he did not understand Hebrew; and Paul, for the most part, wrote as a Hebraist.

   The participle ὢν, being put for ἐστι, is what is common in Hebrew and in the New Testament. See a remarkable instance of two participles and a verb in the middle, in Revelation 1:4. It has been said, that “amen” unsuitably follows a declarative sentence; but see an instance in Romans 1:25

   It is justly observed by Stuart, that the context requires the application of this sentence to Christ, as otherwise there would be no antithesis to the words “according to the flesh.” — Ed.
And I doubt not, but that Paul, who had to contend hard with a reproach urged against him, did designedly raise up his own mind to the contemplation of the eternal glory of Christ; nor did he do this so much for his own sake individually, as for the purpose of encouraging others by his example to raise up their thoughts.

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