AS THE OT PROPHETS PROMISED, GOD HAS CHOSEN TO SOVEREIGNLY SAVE MANY GENTILES THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST BUT ONLY A REMNANT OF JEWS IN THIS AGE
Thomas Schreiner: Even though verse 24 advances the argument in a new direction, we should not fail to see the connection with what Paul said in the previous paragraph. In verses 22–23 he has stressed that God’s mercy is appreciated and perceived as mercy when it is displayed against the backdrop of wrath. What verse 24 highlights is the calling of the gentiles to faith: God “called not only the Jews but also the gentiles.” The inclusion of the Jews in the people of God is not surprising, since such is clearly taught in the OT Scriptures. What is astonishing is that gentiles are also recipients of God’s mercy. The inclusion of the gentiles fits nicely with the theme articulated in verses 22–23. To the Jews of Paul’s day, gentiles were particularly deserving of God’s wrath. Thus their calling into the church through Paul’s ministry highlights God’s mercy in a way that the inclusion of the Jews does not. This is not to say that the inclusion of the Jews does not exhibit God’s mercy. Indeed, as Paul’s argument in Rom. 9–11 develops, he will explain how history is structured in such a way that the calling of both Jews and gentiles at particular junctures of history is designed to maximize the display of God’s mercy.
In this paragraph Paul features the inclusion of many gentiles into the people of God, while only a remnant of Jews are being saved. Paul has explained that such is God’s purpose and intention. The paragraph comes to an end with the salvation of a Jewish remnant. On the one hand, the sin of Israel is featured, but on the other hand, the presence of a remnant spells hope: God isn’t finished with Israel yet. . .
What is striking is that God is calling only a remnant from Israel, whereas large numbers of gentiles are streaming into the church. This is utterly astonishing, since the Jews would have expected it to be precisely the opposite. Some gentiles would be recipients of God’s mercy, while the vast majority of the Jews would be the objects of his gracious call. What Paul shows with these OT citations is that this reversal is not as novel as one might think. The OT itself prepares us for the idea that God would show mercy to those who were least expected to receive it and would save only a remnant from Israel. It should also be noted that the thesis of verse 6a continues to be developed. God’s word has not been frustrated through the disbelief of the majority of the Jews. He planned that only a remnant of Jews would believe and that many gentiles would confess Jesus as Messiah in order to maximize his mercy (cf. 11:32). Still, the existence of a Jewish remnant signifies that there is hope for Israel’s future.
James Stifler: The substance of the chapter is that, in spite of Israel’s rejection, in spite of the present mixed following of Jews and Gentiles as the Lord’s people, God’s Word has not failed, for God never pledged away his sovereignty in it, but, on the other hand, predicted that salvation turned on His will and call.
Warren Wiersbe: So far, Paul had defended the character of God by showing His faithfulness, his righteousness, and His justice. Israel’s rejection had not canceled God’s election; it had only proved that He was true to his character and his purposes. . .
No one will deny that there are many mysteries connected with divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Nowhere does God as us to choose between these two truths, because they both come from God and are a part of God’s plan. They do not compete; they cooperate. The fact that we cannot fully understand how they work together does not deny the fact that they do. When a man asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled divine sovereignty and human responsibility, Spurgeon replied: “I never try to reconcile friends!”
John MacArthur: Now as Paul presents the gospel, the question is posed to him, how can it be true if God’s chosen people the Jews don’t believe it? How can it be genuinely from God if the people of God reject it? That’s the issue. If this new truth is really of God, then why don’t God’s people receive it? Paul must answer that and that is the reason he writes chapters 9 through 11. And it’s essentially tied to his doctrine of justification by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He wants people to believe that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. The Jews say, no it doesn’t. How can it be true when the Jews, God’s people, reject it? That’s the question. . .
The unbelief of the Jews does not violate God’s plan. Some are going to say, “Well now wait a minute, I mean, God had a plan for Israel, God had an everlasting plan for Israel, God promised them that they would be as the sand of the sea and they would enter into blessing and prosperity, God promised them a kingdom, God promised them life. I mean, now all of a sudden they’re in unbelief, this violates God’s plan.” I mean, the Jew is going to say, “You can’t preach this new gospel, it just violates God’s plan. I mean, it means that all the Old Testament prophets were wrong when they promised things to Israel, when they predicted a kingdom.”
(:24) TRANSITION – INCLUSION OF THE CALLED GENTILES
“even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only,
but also from among Gentiles.”
Michael Bird: The switch from v. 23 to v. 24 is seamless, and yet there is a discernible change in direction as Paul mounts an intertextual argument to demonstrate the identity of the “objects of mercy,” the “us,” as consisting of Christ-believing Gentiles and Jews (v. 24). God’s choice of Israel and the preservation of a remnant to be objects of his mercy and patience always had in mind a wider purpose to show mercy to Jews and Gentiles alike. God is not replacing Israel with the church. Instead, God is preserving a remnant within Israel and then expanding it to include Gentiles as well.
I. (:25-26) SALVATION EXTENDED TO MANY GENTILES
(Quote from Hosea)
“As He says also in Hosea,”
S. Lewis Johnson: Paul follows with a series of Old Testament quotations in support of the fact that God has called Gentiles to faith and left Israel with a remnant in the earth. In other words if Israel had read the Scriptures, they would have understood what might happen, if they should reject the revelation of God climaxed in the appearance of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Ro 9:25-29). Oh! How many things become clear when we read the Scriptures! (Romans 9:14-33)
A. (:25) Incorporation of Gentiles as God’s Beloved People
- God’s People
“I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’”
- God’s Beloved
“And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
God has chosen to include many Gentiles who had no previous ancestral relationship to God.
Frank Thielman: God’s word in Hosea confirms the surprisingly multiethnic nature of God’s people. Just as in Hosea’s time God mercifully accepted an idolatrous and unjust Israel again as his people, so now he has turned gentiles into recipients of his mercy. In both cases, those who were not his people because of their rebellion against him have become his people. . .
The first part of Paul’s quotation is an altered form of Hosea 2:23 (2:25 LXX), and the second part of his quotation comes word for word from Hosea 1:10 (2:1 LXX). Paul’s alterations of Hosea 2:23 (2:25 LXX and Heb.) are significant. He reverses Hosea’s two clauses and changes their wording to fit the themes he has developed in Romans 9:6–25. Hosea’s “I will say [ἐρῶ]” becomes “I will call [καλέσω]” to match the statement that God “called” (ἐκάλεσεν) vessels of mercy from among both Jews and gentiles in Romans 9:24 (cf. 9:7, 12). This change also allows Paul to form an inclusion with the verb “they will be called” (κληθήσονται) from Hosea 1:10 (2:1 LXX), which he uses in the second part of his quotation. In addition, Paul changes Hosea’s “I will have pity on Not Pitied” to “[I will call] ‘Not Loved’ ‘Loved’ [ἠγαπημένην ἠγαπημένην],” and this echoes the line, “Jacob I have loved [ἠγάπησα]” from 9:13.
These changes highlight the twofold theme that
(1) God has the right to show mercy to whomever he will and that
(2) God’s choice of those to whom he will show mercy is often surprising from a human perspective. In this case, the surprise is that those who have received God’s mercy are “not only . . . Jews but also . . . gentiles” (9:24).
Thomas Schreiner: God mercifully calls both Jews and gentiles as his people. God’s call isn’t merely an invitation but is an effectual call, demonstrating that God in his mercy and grace chose some from among both Jews and gentiles for salvation. The calling of gentiles especially features the riches of God’s grace, since they were outside the circle of his covenant love.
William Hendriksen: How is it possible for Paul and Peter to take a passage which predicts restoration for Israelites and apply it to audiences in which Gentiles predominated?
The answer is simple: the same principle operates throughout. . . That which brings about the restoration or conversion is ever the active, powerful, and sovereign grace of God Almighty! . . . What is stressed in these quotations is the sovereign and pitying grace of God shown to those who – whether Jews or Gentiles – lack the right to consider themselves God’s people.
F. F. Bruce: What Paul does here is to take this promise, which referred to a situation within the frontiers of the chosen people, and extract from it a principle of divine action which in his day was reproducing itself on a world-wide scale. In large measure through Paul’s own apostolic ministry, great numbers of Gentiles, who had never been “the people of God” and had no claim on His covenant mercy, were coming to be enrolled among His people and to be the recipients of His mercy. The scale of the divine action was far wider than in in Hosea’s day, but the same pattern and principle were recognizable. Through the Gentile mission, in those lands where the people of God had once been unrepresented, there were now many believers who were acknowledged as “sons of the living God”.
John MacArthur: So please note that the use of Hosea’s prophecies is not particularly to emphasize Israel’s restoration, though that appears in the prophecies that He’ll call them back to be His people, His beloved sons of the living God. The particular point in using the prophecies is to show that a future restoration of Israel demands a falling of Israel, right? You don’t have to restore what hasn’t been lost. And the point is that Paul is saying we’re not shocked by Israel’s unbelief, quite the contrary. We expected it because God promised their restoration from that unbelief. So when you look at the gospel being presented and you ask yourself the question as I have been asked by Jewish people, if your gospel is true, why didn’t the Jews believe it? I say it was planned in the prophecy…in the plan of God that the Jews would have to be restored from unbelief so we’re not surprised they’ve entered into unbelief from which they’ll be restored.
B. (:26) Incorporation of Gentiles into Family of God
“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.”
Everett Harrison: It is just possible that Paul does not intend the second passage (Hos 1:10) to apply to Gentiles (though this is by no means certain), in which case by the sequence of the passages he may be giving a hint of something developed in chapter 11 – namely, the influx of Gentiles during Israel’s temporary rejection, to be followed by the turning of Israel to the Lord in great numbers (11:25-27).
II. (:27-29) SALVATION RESTRICTED TO SMALL JEWISH REMNANT
(Quote from Isaiah)
“And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel,”
John Walvoord: The passages quoted (Isa. 10:22-23 and 1:9, both from the LXX) make it clear that in God’s judgment on rebellious Israel He by sovereign choice preserves and saves a remnant. Those promises were fulfilled in the Captivity and Exile of both Israel and Judah and in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 and will also be fulfilled in the national end-time deliverance of Israel. Even today the same principle is true. Jews who become members of the church, the body of Christ, are what Paul later called “a remnant chosen by grace” [Bible Knowledge Commentary].
A. (:27) Expectation of Salvation of Only a Small Remnant
“Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea,
it is the remnant that will be saved;”
Thomas Schreiner: The salvation of only a remnant among the chosen people continues to advance the theme of mercy against the backdrop of wrath. When one sees that the majority of Israel are vessels of wrath, then the mercy vouchsafed to the remnant is all the more striking. The selection of a remnant also impresses on the reader the freedom of God as he works in unexpected ways.
Douglas Moo: Isaiah 10:22–23, quoted in part in Romans 9:27–28, is one of the great “remnant” texts in the Old Testament. The remnant conception emerged in the prophets as a message of both judgment and hope—judgment, because the continuing sinfulness of Israel brought God’s judgment on the people as a whole, resulting in the salvation of only some of the people; hope, because despite Israel’s sinfulness, God maintained his commitment to his covenant and pledged to save at least some of the people.
John MacArthur: So the events of Jewish history monitored by Hosea and monitored by Isaiah are pictures, prophetic pictures of the events about the time of Jesus Christ and the presenting of the gospel and the age in which we live when the Jews have also rejected God and been severed from Him, scattered. There were only a few, by the way, who were saved out of the Assyrian conquest, just a few. And they sort of typify the few who are saved in this age.
B. (:28) Expectation of Decisive Judgment
“for the Lord will execute His word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly.”
Frank Thielman: On the positive side, God will save his people from destruction, but on the negative side, only a remnant of them will be saved. In the original context the destruction would come from the Assyrians, who would sweep into Israel from the north as God’s tool of judgment on his sinful people. God would nevertheless leave a remnant within Israel both to humble the Assyrians and to provide for the eventual fulfillment of his promise to Abraham to “multiply” his “offspring . . . as the sand that is on the seashore” (Gen 22:17).
C. (:29) Expectation of Almost Being Completely Devastated
“And just as Isaiah foretold, ‘Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity,
we would have become as Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.’”
III. (:30-33) ISRAEL STUMBLED OVER SALVATION BY FAITH IN CHRIST
A. (:30-31) Contrast between Pursuit of the Gentiles and the Jews
- (:30) Pursuit of the Gentiles = Righteousness by Faith
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;”
Thomas Schreiner: From this section we learn that Paul viewed divine sovereignty and human responsibility as complementary rather than contradictory truths. They are not mutually exclusive but are compatible. Paul provides no philosophical resolution as to how they correlate, and it is probably best to acknowledge that they relate mysteriously, in a way that exceeds our finite understanding. In any case, it would be a serious mistake to appeal to divine sovereignty as if it diminished the genuineness of human freedom and responsibility.
- (:31) Pursuit of the Jews = Self-Righteousness
“but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.”
Douglas Moo: Paul’s formulation “” is probably an attempt to make two points at once: Israel pursued righteousness, but she did law of righteousness not obtain it because she elevated nomos to the central position of concern. The people of Israel, therefore, focused narrowly on the works the law demanded and missed the larger demand of God to submit to him in faith. Thus they failed to obtain righteousness.
Paul explains this basic problem again in 9:32b–33, but in different terms. He draws the picture of a walker so intent on pursuing a certain goal that she stumbles and falls over a rock lying right in her path. So Israel, myopically concentrating on the law and its demands, missed Christ, “the stone” that God placed in her path. This imagery comes from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, which Paul quotes in Romans 9:33. These texts, along with another “stone” text (Ps. 118:22), are quoted together in 1 Peter 2:6–8, suggesting that they may have been brought together via the key word “stone” by Christians before Paul’s day.
- (:32a) Core Distinction = Faith vs. Works
“Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.”
Everett Harrison: Gentile success is attributed to their avoidance of the false approach of the Jew and their willingness to receive righteousness as a gift. Hardly a passage in the NT is stronger than this one in its exposure of the futility of works as a means of justification.
John Witmer: The Israelites did not admit their inability to keep the Law perfectly and turn by faith to God for forgiveness. Instead a few of them kept trying to keep the Law by their own efforts. Consequently they stumbled (cf. Rom. 11:11) over the “stumbling stone.” The Lord Jesus Christ, “the stumbling Stone” (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-8), did not conform to the Jews’ expectations, so they rejected Him instead of responding to him by faith.
John MacArthur: greatest obstacle to salvation is self-righteousness. You understand that? Because you can’t get saved if you don’t know you need it, right? And that’s what hung up the Jews. They thought they were already righteous. You see, they had spent their whole life pursuing a right relationship with God through their own efforts. So when the gospel came and condemned their sin, it did not compute because they thought themselves righteous. So the Jews rejected, except for a small remnant, small remnant. . .
We are justified by faith. And there’s the human response. The Gentile got it not because he was elect, but because he believed. That’s the balance of human responsibility.
Verse 31: “But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness.” Stop there. Did they do that? O man, did they ever. I mean, they pursued… The word “law” means principle, or standard. They pursued the principle of righteousness. I mean, it was a way of life, we must be righteous, we must be righteous, we’ve got to do this and not do that and do this and not do that. And they had all this myriad of prescriptions pursuing the principle of righteousness, pursuing the standard of righteousness incessantly as a way of life they did that. And they did it all by what? By works. Proud-hearted legalists pursuing self-righteously a right relationship to God and it says they went after the law of righteousness and they did not attain it. They didn’t get it.
You say, “They weren’t elect, weren’t chosen.” It’s not what it says. You say, “Why didn’t they get it?” Verse 32, that’s what Paul says, why? Why didn’t they get it? Because they sought it not by what? “By faith.” That simple. There is salvation by seeking, beloved, but seeking with faith, not pursuing by works. I’m going to get better, I’m going to do better, I’m going to act better, I’m going to think better, I’m going to talk better and God will like me better and then I’ll be okay with Him. No, it’s saying…kind of goes like this, the only thing that you can do to be saved is to believe that you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself on the mercy of God. Did you get that? The only thing you can do to be saved is to believe you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself on the mercy of God.
Some of the Gentiles did that, great numbers of them. A few Jews did. But Israel, who all their life had pursued a standard of righteousness, never got it because they sought it not by faith. But it says, as it were, “by the works of the law.” They tried to get it by law keeping, by their own abilities. In fact, a gracious, merciful salvation given as a free gift was an offense to a self-righteous Jew, because it said none of your works matter, none of your works count and he couldn’t handle that. That’s why they rejected Jesus with such anger, such bitterness, such hatred because they were so offended that all their life long of all these righteous deeds added up to what? Zero. Whew…and now when they looked at the cross and they were told this man is dying for your sins, the cross was to them what? First Corinthians 1, foolishness, foolishness, it offended them, it offended them.
B. (:32b-33) Christ = Stumbling Stone for the Jews
“They stumbled over the stumbling stone,
just 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.’”
A. Berkeley Mickelsen: “And the one trusting in him will not be disappointed” – introduces a ray of light into an otherwise dark picture. Such a positive response, however, was not that of Israel as a whole, for Israel stumbled at the stone that God placed in Zion.