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The Epistle to the Romans.
God's Sovereignty Established (9: 14-29).
pp. 26 - 34
It is of the utmost importance in our study of Rom. 9: that we keep steadily in mind
the fact that the objector in this chapter is a Jew and not a Gentile. A Gentile might
object to the rejection of Esau, but no Jew would ever suggest that God was unrighteous
because he rejected Edom and chose Israel. The pride of the Jew, so manifest in the
Scriptures, would make such a suggestion impossible. The question of Rom. 9: 14
concerning the possibility of unrighteousness with God goes deeper; it arises out of the
choice of the remnant according to the election of grace, and the corresponding passing
by of the bulk of the nation. It is this, and not the "hating" of Esau, that would create a
difficulty in the mind of the Jew. So with the question of the "hardening" of Pharaoh's
heart. No orthodox Jew would have the slightest scruple or difficulty about this. What
would trouble him would be the possibility that any one of the literal seed of Abraham
should not find mercy. With ourselves, the point of view is different. We see a difficulty
in the rejection of Esau, and in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, but it is important to
realize that, while these problems demand their own solution, they are not strictly
relevant to the exposition of Rom. 9:-11:
Paul had sat at the feet of Gamaliel. He must have known the different words used in
the O.T. in connection with the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and all the arguments that
different schools of the Rabbis had put forward; yet he does not enter into the debate at
all. It is possible to suggest as a kind of extenuation of the Divine act that Pharaoh is
finally to be numbered among the saved, but of this suggestion Paul has nothing to say.
It would also be possible to soften the statement by referring to the evident fact that many
things are said to be done by the Lord that He really only permits others to do in their
self-will and rebellion. Again, the Apostle makes no mention of such a plea. He is here
meeting the objection of the Jew, who boasts that, being a son of Abraham, he cannot fail
of the kingdom of the Messiah. The Apostle draws attention to the most evident exercise
of sovereign choice in the call of Abraham, the selection of Isaac, and the rejection of
Esau. The doing of good or evil in no way influenced the choice of Jacob or the rejection
of Esau, and, in continuance of his argument, the Apostle gives two further instances
from O.T. history, in which the sovereignty of God is exercised in saving mercy, and in
"What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He
saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy . . . . . Therefore He hath
mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (Rom. 9: 14-18).
The words of Luther on this section are to the point:
"The ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is the ninth. Learn first the eight
chapters which precede it."