Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 (33) The Choice of Gentiles in the Scriptural Prophesies
Romans 9:25-33


25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”


Introduction

In verses 25-33, Paul finishes his argument that Israel’s unbelief is not inconsistent with God’s plan of redemption by using the Old Testament to show that her unbelief reflects exactly what the prophets recorded (verses 25-29), and that it is consistent with God’s prerequisite of faith (verses 30-33).

 

Commentary


25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
 
As He says also in Hosea--Now Paul was arguing with Jews, and he knew that the only way to reinforce his argument was with quotations from their own scriptures. Therefore, he appeals to a number of Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s people and the principle of election. He paraphrases Hosea 2:23, “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” In Hosea, these words actually refer to Israel and not to the Gentiles. They look forward to the time when Israel will be restored as God’s people and as His beloved. But when Paul quotes them here in Romans, he applies them to the call of the Gentiles. What right does Paul have to make such a radical change? The answer is that the Holy Spirit who inspired the words in the first place has the right to reinterpret or reapply them later. Hosea was an Old Testament man of God who saw a parable of the relationship between God and Israel in the tragedy of his own life. Hosea married Gomer, and a child was born which he named Jezreel. But when Gomer’s second and third children were born, Hosea was not convinced he was the father, therefore he gave them names, which expressed his apprehension. Their Hebrew names were Lo-ammi (no kin of mine) and Loruhamah (one for whom no natural affection is felt). These names indicate God’s attitude toward His people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when they broke their covenant with Him and forsook His commands. God allowed Syria to take the nation into captivity and exile [1](Hosea 1:2-9).

God was not permanently casting away the people of Israel, however. In the verses quoted by Paul, God promised to restore them as His beloved and as His people.

The principles of Hosea’s prophesy are still being fulfilled in this marvelous Day of Grace. Today, He is calling out of this world a people to His name—Gentiles, who are strangers to the covenants, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and without hope.

 

______________________________verse 25 notes___________________________________


[1](Hosea 1:2-9) When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. Then the Lord said to him: “Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. It shall come to pass in that day That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the Lord their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen.” Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.

 

26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

Now Paul quotes, word-for-word the second verse of Hosea 1:10. That verse says, “…And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” Once again, in its Old Testament setting this verse is not speaking about the Gentiles, but it is describing Israel’s future restoration to God’s favor. Yet Paul applies it here to God’s acknowledgment of the Gentiles as His sons. He shows that great numbers of Gentiles, who had never been “the people of God,” could now lay claim to the same relationship with God, which Israel had. As James put it, “So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:17). This is another illustration of the fact that when the Holy Spirit quotes verses from the Old Testament in the New Testament, He can rightfully apply them as He wishes.

The Gentiles would be brought into God’s favor through the preaching of the gospel. This was in accordance with the principles set forth in Hosea’s prophecy. Since Israel had placed themselves on a level with the Gentiles by their departure from God, it was both reasonable and compatible with God’s mercy that in recalling a remnant of Israel from their alienated state, He should also call in others who are, as Israel had become, not His people.

Old Testament Confirmation Of God’s Redemptive Plan
Passage                                               Action                                        Old Testament
                                                                                                                 Confirmation
Romans 9:25-26                     Redemption includes Gentiles                   Hosea 2:23; 1:10

Romans 9:27-29                     Remnant of Israel will be saved                Isa. 10:22-23; 1:9

 

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.

Next Paul appeals to the prophecy of [2](Isaiah 10:22–23). The meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy is that although Israel is numerous as a people, nevertheless only a small minority will survive the judgment of God by the Assyrian Empire. The prophet Isaiah made a prediction that was to come true within his own lifetime. The remnant of Israel is those who will come to believe in the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. They will return to God. The children of Israel are referred to as a remnant, indicating that the northern tribes were not totally lost in their dispersion by Assyria; a small remnant would one-day return. The prophet’s message is clear: the northern kingdom shall fall to Assyria, whereas the southern kingdom shall also be invaded but shall not be utterly destroyed.

A remnant shall be saved—If only a remnant of Israel will survive, there will be at least a remnant. God has always had a people. The remnant of Israel is those who will come to believe in the LORD. Paul applies Isaiah’s teaching of the remnant to his own day. Although Israel has rejected God, nevertheless there are some who, through the grace of God, have received the salvation of God.

Note: there will also be a remnant of Israel that will be saved during the Great Tribulation. If you want to see the percentage, there are approximately 15 million Jews today. In the Great Tribulation, we know that only 144,000 Jews will be sealed—that is a small ratio. I believe that others will be saved during that period, because the144,000 will be His witnesses. It has always been only a remnant with them, and it is only a remnant with Gentiles. Don’t ask me why. But if he only saved one, it would reveal the mercy of God, because none of us deserves His mercy.

________________________________verse 27 notes________________________________________

[2](Isaiah 10:22-23) For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return; The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts Will make a determined end In the midst of all the land.

 

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”

When Isaiah said, “He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth,” he was referring to the Babylonian invasion of Palestine and Israel’s subsequent exile. The work was God’s work of judgment. In quoting these words, Paul is saying that what had happened to Israel in the past could and would happen again in his day. God will cut short (He will speedily end it); His working upon the earth to prevent Israel from spiritually destroying herself. However, God will not prolong His long-suffering indefinitely, and judgment will eventually come. In His eternal purpose a remnant [3](Isaiah 1:9), at least, will be saved.

__________________________________________verse 28 notes____________________________________________

[3](Isaiah 1:9 Unless the Lord of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.

 

29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”

This is a startling statement, but it is a fitting climax to the sovereignty of God. Even the elect nation would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah in depravity and rebellion to God if He had not intervened in sovereign mercy and recovered a remnant. Only God’s mercy keeps any of us from going to hell.

The word “a seed” means a small remnant. The word “Sabaoth” is a carbon copy of a Hebrew word meaning “hosts,” and it is a reminder of God’s sovereignty.

This quote from Isaiah 1:9 (see v. 28) reveals that Isaiah placed squarely on the grace of God the fact that a seed (i.e., a remnant, the very germ of the nation) had been saved and they had not been obliterated like Sodom and Gomorrah. To the Lord of Hosts alone belongs the praise for the salvation of any of the wicked Israelites.

While Paul grieves over the condition of his nation, he shows that God is righteous in employing retribution when dealing with His people. If the reduction of the nation to a small remnant was based upon God’s righteousness, the Jew could not complain about the gospel; for in the matter of salvation, in reducing the number of the people to only those who believe, God was acting with perfect consistency. The gospel was, after all, doing only what Isaiah had prophesied. Isaiah foretold of a future remnant; Paul speaks of a remnant in the present day.

Now what does all this prove? That God was not unjust in saving some and judging others, because He was only fulfilling the Old Testament prophesies given centuries ago. He would be unjust if He did not keep His own word. But even more than that, these prophesies show that God’s election has made possible the salvation of the Gentiles. This is the grace of God. At the Exodus, God rejected the Gentiles and chose the Jews, so that, through the Jews He might save the Gentiles. The nation of Israel rejected His will, but this did not defeat His purposes. A remnant of Jews does believe, and God’s word has been fulfilled.

The apostle now shows, in the following verses, the ground upon which God has dealt with both Jew and Gentile: This recalls the teaching of the earlier part of the Epistle, that God reckons righteousness on the ground of faith.

 

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;

In this verse, Paul moves from divine sovereignty to human responsibility. Note that Paul does not say, “elect” or “non elect,” but rather he emphasized faith. The Jews thought the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved, when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved. “For there is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This is a thrilling statement. Gentiles, without willing or working, found righteousness in Christ, because God worked and God willed it. The Old Testament scriptures had prophesied it. As we have seen, Isaiah had said that Gentiles were to be saved.

The reference here to attainment does not suggest the result of human effort but the reception of the blessing of salvation granted to those with faith. Righteousness here signifies the justifying act of God’s grace by which the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to a person in response to faith at the time of conversion.

What, Paul asks, is the conclusion of all this as far as this present Church Age is concerned? The first conclusion is that Gentiles, who characteristically did not pursue righteousness but rather wickedness, and who certainly didn’t pursue a righteousness of their own making, have found righteousness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Not all Gentiles, of course, but only those who believed in Christ were justified.

 

31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.

This is a terrifying statement—look at the nation of Israel today. Religious people are the most difficult people to reach with the gospel—church members, who think they are good enough to be saved.

The phrase “law of righteousness” refers to obtaining righteousness as the outcome of keeping a law, the Law of Moses being especially in view. The Israelite, having the Law, looked upon righteousness as a possible outcome of keeping it. But their efforts found righteousness beyond their reach; there was never a Jew who found righteousness by keeping the Law. They said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8). But they did just the opposite; they broke every commandment God gave them. To seek to attain righteousness by observing the Law requires that it be kept perfectly [4](James 2:10). Why didn’t Israel attain it? Because they pursued it by works, instead of by faith.

You will never be able to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. But Paul is making it very clear here that if you are going to be saved it is your responsibility. It is “whosoever will may come” (see Mark 8:34) and “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). You can come; don’t stand on the sidelines and say, “I’m not elected.” But I have never heard of anyone being elected who did not run for office. If you want to be saved, you are the elect. If you don’t, you’re not. And that is all I know about it. I cannot reconcile election and freewill. I have come to the place in the sunset of my life that I can say that God is sovereign, and He is going to do this according to His will. And His will is right—there is no unrighteousness with Him. He won’t make a mistake. Men make mistakes, men in government make mistakes, yet people believe in them. My friend, why don’t you believe in God? He is righteous, He is good, and whatever He does is right.

___________________________________verse 31 notes_________________________________________

[4](James 2:10)   For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.


32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

Here Paul contrasted Jews and Gentiles. The apostle was concerned with the failure of Israel. For the Jews, Christ was a “stumbling stone” because they persisted in trying to attain righteousness by keeping the Law (vv. 32, 33). The Gentiles, in contrast, accepted by faith the righteousness of God. This does not imply that all Gentiles will be saved. Only those who avoid the mistake of Israel—that is, dependence upon the Law or works for salvation—will experience redemption. Nowhere is it any clearer that works are futile as a means of justification. Those who place their faith in God never need to fear that He might prove unreliable. That is what Paul is pointing out, that the Jews, who pressed forward to the goal, did not reach the goal. They have not attained; But the Gentiles, who never ran (or who never pressed forward to the goal), have attained by faith.

Once again, Paul passes from the sovereignty of God to the responsibility of man. We cannot harmonize the two in human understanding, and unless the scriptures can harmonize the two, we will be left hanging in thin air; that is, we must cling to both. The Word of God and reason teach us the absolute sovereignty of God—and Scripture and the human conscience assert with equal force the responsibility and free will of man. The error occurs when either one of these is denied or when one is explained in a way that excludes the other.

The great tragedy of the Jewish nation was that the Messiah they have waited for, for so long, became to them a stumbling stone rather than a shelter in which to hide. They refused to believe that justification is by faith in Christ, but went on stubbornly trying to work out their own righteousness by personal merit. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, Christ Jesus the Lord.

The quotation used here is from Isaiah [5](Isa. 28:16), which is set in the context of Israel trusting Egypt for deliverance from the Assyrians instead of trusting in the power of God. Those who trust in God never need to fear that their trust has been ill-placed or is ill-founded. Had Israel trusted in her God rather than her law and her neighbors, she would not have been confounded and dispersed throughout the world. But the partial blindness of Israel, to the eternal purpose of God, has produced good for the Gentiles and to the world in general. God is now calling out a people unto His name from both Jews and the Gentiles.

God has always saved based on faith and never based on good works. Therefore, Gentiles can come to the Savior and obtain the righteousness, which is of faith, even without having the privileges of the Jew, and with no prior knowledge of the Scriptures. The Jews, on the other hand, who had great privileges and knew the Old Testament Scriptures well, tragically attempted to establish their own righteousness by adherence to the works of the Mosaic Law. Consequently, Paul concludes that the partial blindness of Israel exhibits God’s sovereignty in allowing those who were most distant from Himself (the Gentiles) to come unto Him by faith.

_________________________________________________Verse 32 notes_________________________________________________

[5](Isaiah 28:16) Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.

 

33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

This is exactly what the Lord foretold through Isaiah. The Messiah’s coming to Jerusalem (here called Zion) would have a twofold effect. To some people He would prove to be a stumbling stone and rock of offense [6](Isaiah 8:14). This verse was an exhortation not to fear the alliance between Syria and Ephraim [7](Isaiah 7:2). There was a better ground for confidence for God’s people, in their true Messiah; He would be a stumbling stone to many, but a reliable ground for confidence to believers. Those who believe on Him will find no reason for shame, offense, or disappointment [8](Isaiah 28:16). This verse was a warning against false confidence and the desire of the people of Israel for an alliance with Ephraim against the Syrians. As in other quotations, the application goes far beyond those immediate circumstances.
 
The word rendered “offense” is skandalon, originally the name of that part of a trap to which the bait was attached. It became symbolic of anything that arouses prejudice or becomes a hindrance to others, causing them to fall, the hindrance being good in itself as here, of Christ, and those who stumbled being unbelievers, or the hindrance being evil.

_________________________________________verse 33 notes____________________________________

[6](Isaiah 8:14)   He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Isaiah is instructed by Jehovah not to join this people in their fear of the conspiracy formed against them, but to trust the Lord alone. He will be as a sanctuary to all who rely on Him, but a stone of stumbling to all others.

[7](Isaiah 7:2) And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. King Ahaz was frightened because Syria and Israel united to depose him and crown a new king in Judah. Assyria and Egypt were also on the move, so it was not an encouraging time. When circumstances threaten you, what do you do? Alas, Ahaz trusted in his own wisdom and made a treaty with the king of Assyria, only to see him break it.
Note: Ephraim is in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

[8](Isaiah 28:16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

 

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