Tuesday 27 March 2012

Bible Book:

"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people'." (v. 25)

Romans 9:19-33 Tuesday 27 March 2012


This difficult passage follows Paul's reference in verses 6 to18 to God's choice of choosing Isaac rather than Ishmael and Jacobrather than Esau, and in the Exodus story the hardening ofPharaoh's heart in the process of rescuing the Israelites fromEgypt. Throughout chapters 9 to 11 Paul is wrestling with thisquestion: why have the Jewish people, in the main, not believed inJesus Christ?

It is helpful in thinking about it to keep in mind what Paul takesfor granted:

  • All human beings, Jew and non-Jew alike, have sinned and comeshort of God's glory, and stand condemned for it (seeRomanschapters 1 to 3).
  • God has sent Jesus, the promised Messiah, to restore allhumanity, both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew).
  • The key to our relationship with God is, and always has been,faith or trust. Such faith leads to obedience, but obediencewithout faith is putting the cart before the horse. This, in Paul'sview, is where his compatriots have gone astray.
  • Nevertheless God has called the Jews to be God's own people andcannot go back on that commitment.
  • While we remain responsible for our behaviour, it isunthinkable that anything could happen outside God's will andpurpose.

The key word in the passage is "mercy" (v. 23). All needmercy for all have sinned (Romans3:23). In mercy God has sent Jesus (hinted at in verse33: the "stone" is a person). The Old Testament illustrates howfrom the beginning God has selected some and bypassed others. Beingan Israelite by birth does not guarantee salvation. What counts isfaith - trusting in the mercy of God.

We may think God arbitrary and unjust (verse 19) but for Paulit is not for mere mortals to question God's ways. In any case itis not arbitrary: the method is justified by the purpose, mercyultimately offered to all (see  chapter11).


To Ponder

How far do you think Paul adequately answers theobjection he quotes in verse 19?

Paul is thinking here on the large scale ofnations and peoples. Does it have any bearing on the question whysome individuals believe and others do not? Why?

To what extent do you think it is true thatnothing happens outside God's will and purpose?

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