In Chapter 9, Paul addresses Israel’s relationship with God. He makes it clear that he is grieved the Israelites have rejected God’s offer of grace through faith, they have rejected Christ. Israel is God’s chosen nation, with whom He has made covenants and promises. So, even though Israel’s fellowship with God is suffering, this is not due to God breaking His word. As humans, we deserve nothing from God, yet He chooses to extend mercy to us. He is our maker, and we have no right or power to demand anything from Him. Yet, He chooses to show mercy to whom He chooses to show mercy. We cannot earn His favor; He gives it to whom He chooses. God does not care about our works apart from obedience to Him, and when He sent His Son to die for the world, all He required from us was faith. The Gentiles have been reconciled to Him because of their faith, but the Jews have alienated themselves from Him by only pursuing works. The fault lies with Israel. God has not abandoned them.
Throughout Romans, Paul has been refuting slanderous charges made by competing Jewish authorities about his gospel message. Paul is deeply sad that Israel, as a nation, has rejected Christ. Israel is God’s chosen nation, and Paul wishes that every Israelite had faith in Christ.
God’s promises have not failed. Abraham was a faithful, obedient servant toward God, but that doesn’t mean all descendants of Abraham followed his example. There are some Israelites who believed in Jesus Christ, but the leaders of Israel rejected Jesus outright. There’s a distinction between biological descendants of Israel and “children of the promise.”
The “word of promise” calls back to God’s promise that he would give Abraham and Sarah a son. This was the foundational promise God made to start His chosen people, and Abraham responded in faith. It was God who chose Abraham, and God who willed the conception of their son Isaac. God likewise chose Isaac’s son Jacob to father the tribes of Israel, rather than his elder brother Esau. Even before either Jacob or Esau were born, before either one could prove who was better, God decided it would be Jacob whom He would use for His purpose. God is God. His will is ultimately accomplished.
In light of God’s decision to love one brother and hate the other, we might wonder, “Since God chose Jacob over Esau, doesn’t that make God unfair?” Paul’s answer is clear, “No!” God told Moses that it’s up to Him who He chooses to show mercy and compassion to. We can’t earn God’s favor or His mercy. It’s God who extends it to us.
Paul uses another example from the Old Testament to show God’s sovereignty. God raised Pharaoh, a wicked heathen king who rejected God, to a position of authority over the enslaved Israelites. God used a wicked man to show that He was more powerful than even the greatest king of the known world (at that time). God is God. He does what He chooses to do.
Again Paul anticipates someone to respond, “Well then, why does God find fault in people? No one can resist God’s agenda.” Paul responds with a profound answer, “You’re only a created man. You cannot argue with God, your Creator.”
God is willing to retrofit those who choose to reject Him as vessels of destruction, just as He did when Pharaoh continued to reject Him. But, God has created other vessels (believers) to demonstrate His glory through His mercy – to us who believe in His son.
Paul is telling his audience of believers in Rome at the time, a group that contains both Jews and Gentiles (those who are non-Jewish), that it is not only Jews who are in God’s family, but also the Gentiles.
Even though much of Israel has rejected Christ, there is a remnant who remain faithful. A remnant of faithful Israelites has persisted throughout history.
Righteousness can only be gained one way: through faith. The Gentiles (people who are non-Jewish) found righteousness through faith, even though they were not looking for it. Many of the Jewish people pursued righteousness through following rules, not through faith, so they didn’t find righteousness.