Romans Chapter 9

Paul’s Great Sorrow for Unbelieving Israel—Unbelieving Despite an Eight—Fold Preeminence. Verses 1 to 5.

The Real Israel, however, were an Elect, not a Natural Seed: God’s Sovereignty in Election Defended. Verses 6 to 29.

Astonishing Conclusion! The Gentiles, not Following after
Righteousness, Attain to it by Simple Faith; Israel, Following after a
Law—Method, Stumble at the By—Faith Way,—at Christ! Verses 30 to 33.

Ten, and Eleven, Paul turns aside from that glorious exposition of
Grace, in the first eight chapters, to the explanation of God’s present
dealing with Israel. God had committed Himself to bless this nation;
and lo, now it is nationally set aside, while Paul’s message goes out
to all nations without distinction between Jew and Greek! Where, then,
is the Divine faithfulness? How reconcile God’s former condition of
blessing,—through circumcision, the Law with its observances, the
temple with its presence of Jehovah in the Holy of Holies, and the
separateness of the elect nation, Israel, from all others:—how
reconcile all this with such a by faith “no difference” message as Paul
has been preaching to us—in the first eight chapters? A message,
indeed, which he resumes from Chapter Twelve to the close, magnifying
God’s present mercy to the Gentiles; and ending up the Epistle as he
began it, with the words: “My gospel, (revealing a heretofore hidden
secret), is sent forth unto all the nations unto the simple obedience
of faith”!

The question, therefore, is, how to reconcile the
“no distinction between Jew and Greek” message that Paul is here
preaching, with God’s former manner of speech to Israel, concerning
which the Psalmist sings:

“He showeth His word unto Jacob,

His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel.

He hath not dealt so with any nation;

And as for His ordinances, they have not known them”

(Ps. 147:19, 20).

And not only so, but the whole book of Psalms, for that matter; yes, and the prophets, also!

it will not do merely to go back to Israel’s idolatrous history, and
denounce the nation; or even to our Lord’s awful utterance, as He
finally left their temple:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth
the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would
I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her own
brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left
unto you desolate” (Luke 13:34, 35).

It will not do to say they were a disobedient people, and God has
rejected them entirely, and has brought blessing out to the Gentiles
instead. Nor will it do, in these three chapters, merely to go forward
to Ephesians (2:14-16) and say, “Christ is our peace, who hath made
both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of
partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity [between them],
even the Law of commandments in ordinances; that He might create in
Himself of the two One New Man, so making peace; and might reconcile
them both in One Body unto God through the cross.” Furthermore, it will
not do to go on into Colossians and say concerning this new man, the
Body of Christ, that “there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and
uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is
all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). All these things are true for us who are
in Christ. But it is the facts as they are set forth in Romans, that we
must examine if we are to study Romans. And God, here in Romans, sets
forth His ways in the past, and His ways in the future, with this
chosen earthly nation, Israel.

That God should so signally
honor this nation Israel as to reveal His awful presence on Sinai, and
speak in an audible voice to them, giving to them and them alone His
holy “fiery Law,”—this fact must have its true place with us.

ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the
day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven
unto the other whether there hath been any such thing as this great
thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever a people hear the voice
of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou has heard, and
live? Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of
another nation, by trials by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by
a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
according to all that Jehovah your God did for you in Egypt before your
eyes?” (Deut. 4:32-34.)

I say, for God to do all this, and then publicly set this nation
aside, and send a Paul to all nations without distinction of Jew or
Gentile, preaching salvation apart from the Law, and by simple faith,
instead of by “the Jews’ religion”; promising blessings, and that even
heavenly blessings, inconceivably beyond those promised to Israel,—this
was an astounding thing! The trouble with us Gentiles is, that we have
become accustomed to it, we take it for granted. God’s plans and ways
with Israel do not concern most Christians.

There is no more
striking example of the deadly and deadening self-confidence into which
human beings so quickly drift when they find themselves objects of
Divine goodness: “Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like
the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:20).

One has only to look
about Christendom to see at once the evidence of this fateful delusion.
Behold the “state” churches, the great cathedrals, the vested choirs
and magnificent music; and the “church calendars” with their
man-invented feast days, “holy” days, “Christmas-tides,” “Lenten”
periods, “Easter” services,—all that goes to make up the so-called
“Christian religion”! And the high talk of the Gentiles about Israel as
God’s “ancient people”: whereas God has never had and never will have
any people, any elect nation, but earthly Israel!

When we
reflect that, after He has “caught up in the clouds” His Church saints,
our Lord is coming back to this earthly people Israel, and will
establish them in their land, with a glorious millennial temple and
order of worship, to which the Gentile nations must and will submit:
then we see that the present time is altogether anomalous! It is a
parenthesis, in which God is making a “visit” to the Gentiles, to “take
out of them a people for His name”;—after which, James tells us, our
Lord “will Himself return,” and “build again the tabernacle of David,
which is fallen” (Acts 15:16), on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, where David

Romans Nine, Ten, and Eleven become an essential part
of Christian doctrine in this respect: that while they do not set forth
our salvation or our place in Christ, as do the first eight chapters,
yet they unfold to us our relative place in God’s plans, along with
national Israel’s place. They also reveal to us several matters
absolutely essential to our proper estimate of God and His ways; and,
properly believed, they “hide pride” from us: bringing in as they do
the great fact that both ourselves and (in the future), the saved
Remnant of Israel, are the objects of sovereign Divine mercy. We
discover ourselves in Chapter 9:23 to be “vessels of mercy,” as will
future Israel discover themselves to be, by the example of the mercy
shown to us. The grace of God has been spoken of in this Epistle often
before; but not until these chapters is mercy named; and until mercy is
understood, grace cannot be fully appreciated.

In Luke 1:78
(margin) we read of the “heart of mercy” of our God; and in Ephesians
2:4, that God is “rich in mercy.” God proclaimed His name to Moses:
“Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and
abundant in loving-kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6). God’s mercy is the
sovereign going forth of His heart to us sinful wretched creatures; His
grace follows, in His pardoning our guilt; and His loving-kindness is
His proceeding with us in abundant goodness thereafter.

1 I
speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness
with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing
pain in my heart. 3 For I could pray that I myself were [cast out]
accursed from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to
the flesh: 4 who are Israelites; whose is the [Divine national]
adoption and the [earth-manifested] glory, and the covenants, and the
custodianship of the law, and the sanctuary service, and the promises;
5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh,
who is over all, God blessed unto the ages. Amen.

This most remarkable paragraph naturally divides itself into two parts:

Verses 1 to 3: Paul’s constant yearning pain for the unbelieving
Israelites, his brethren and kinsmen,—a yearning to which he declares
the Spirit bears witness, which could, were it right, go the length of
his being lost if they could be saved! Thus Moses prayed: “If thou wilt
not forgive them, blot me, I pray thee, out of Thy book, which Thou
hast written!” (Ex. 32:32, 33.)194 Dear old Bengel searchingly says,
“It is not easy to estimate the measure of love in a Moses and a Paul.
For our limited reason does not grasp it, as the child cannot
comprehend the courage of warriors!”

2. Verses 4 and 5: The
rehearsing of eight matters which belonged to Israel,—yea, and yet
belong to Israel, in spite of all their unfaithfulness. As Jehovah says
to Jeremiah:

“If these ordinances [of the sun, of the moon, of the
stars and of the sea] depart from before Me, saith Jehovah, then the
seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.
Thus saith Jehovah: If heaven above can be measured, and the
foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast
off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith Jehovah”
(Jer. 31:35-37).

Therefore, first, let us deeply reflect on this thing of Paul’s
unceasing pain over Israel, lest in our Gentile shallowness we miss the
correct judgment of the importance of this event before God, that
Israel, among whom He had dwelt, became disobedient, and were broken
off from blessing; and lest in our own affections we become so narrowed
as to have no yearning over Israel. Shall we let Paul, our great
apostle, have this “unceasing pain,” this “great sorrow,” in his heart,
all alone? Nay for Paul would not have shared the fact with us except
he expected our sympathy in the Spirit. Let us not be like those
thousands of grace-hating Jews in Paul’s day who kept following him in
his blessed ministry, declaring that he was an apostate Jew, one really
denying the faith of his fathers, bitter against his own race in order
to curry favor among the despised Gentiles. They spread the report that
Paul “taught all men everywhere against Israel and the Law and the
temple” (Acts 21:28). How Christ-like was the love in Paul’s heart,
that persisted even to be willing to be lost, for the unbelieving
Israelites who were reviling him!

Second, let us enumerate and
examine the eight respects in which the apostle here declares the
nation of Israel differed before God from all other nations:

The Divine national adoption—“Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, my
first-born” (Ex. 4:22). “Thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God:
Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for His own possession,
above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 7:6).
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2).
Let the nations, British, Americans, French, Germans, or whatever they
be, lay this to heart before it is too late! For as to God’s election
of Israel as His chosen nation, it is absolute and eternal,195 as He
says in Isaiah 66:22: “As the new heavens and new earth [of Rev 21 and
22] shall remain before Me, so shall your seed and your name [Israel]

2. The glory—We all know how God’s presence
accompanied Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night
through the sea and through the wilderness, and then filled the
tabernacle! No other nation has had or will have God’s presence thus.
God said:

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among
them . . . And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in
the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee . . . And
there I will meet with thee” (Ex. 25:8, 21, 22).

And concerning the dedication of Solomon’s temple we read,

“It came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make
one sound to be heard in praising and thanking Jehovah, and when they
lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of
music, and praised Jehovah, saying. For He is good; for His
loving-kindness endureth forever; that then the house was filled with a
cloud, even the house of Jehovah, so that the priests could not stand
to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of Jehovah filled the
house of God” (II Chron. 5:13, 14).

3. The covenants—With “covenants” Gentiles have absolutely
nothing actively to do.196 In Genesis Fifteen God made a covenant with
Abraham, and gave to his earthly seed the token of circumcision. In
Genesis Twenty-two, God “confirmed” the promise to Abraham’s Seed,
which is Christ (Gal. 3:16). With David God made an earthly
kingdom-covenant,—that one of David’s descendants should sit upon his
throne forever (II Sam. 7:13); as we find Gabriel announcing to Mary in
Luke 1:32, 33. God says He will make a New Covenant in the future with
the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (Heb. 8:8-12 , quoted
from Jer. 31:31, ff), in connection with which He promises to “bring
Israel back into their land,” to “take away the stony heart out of
their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, to put His Spirit within
them, to cause them to walk in His statutes, and keep His ordinances,
and do them” (Ezek. 36:24-27).

4. And the custodianship of the
Law—It was a great thing to be entrusted with God’s holy Law, as we
have seen in Chapter 3:2. Let me here repeat that every writer of
Scripture is an Israelite. No other nation has ever been even directly
spoken to, as a nation, by God: except to be warned, as were Egypt by
Moses, and Nineveh by Jonah. There were written messages,—as Isaiah
13-23; but these were given to Israel, concerning other nations.

And the sanctuary-service—The Greek word here (latreia), refers to
those religious ordinances prescribed to Israel by God in connection
with the tabernacle-worship, and afterwards the temple-worship, which
will be resumed in the Millennium, as we read in the last nine chapters
of Ezekiel. (The ordinances and offerings then will be memorial, rather
than prophetic, as in the days before Christ died.)

carefully that such outward form-worship belongs to the nation of
Israel, and not to Christianity. To introduce it into Christianity is
to return to paganism. For Paul plainly classifies the forms and
ceremonies of Judaism as now belonging with “the weak and beggarly
religious principles” which heathen Gentiles engage in! (Gal. 4:9, 10.)

the “Aryans” (whoever they are) have been led out from all other races
by God Himself in manifest presence, and have had a “fiery law” given
them from heaven as had Israel, let them stop their mouths, and also
stop their ears from any vain pagan prophet! And let the Gentiles all
humble their miserable pride. What have they to do with the Law that
God committed to Israel? or with the Jewish Sabbath, which God said was
a token of His covenant with that chosen people? (Ex. 31:12-17.)

And the promises—God’s salvation-promises were lodged in Abraham; His
kingdom-promises, in David. No promises were made to Gentile nations as
such. For the gospel now proclaimed is not a promise, but the
announcement of a fact to be believed; and it is not preached to
nations as such, but to individuals—good news to sinners everywhere.
But to Israel, promises, thousands of them, were committed,—as a nation.

we do not have to become “Israelites” in any sense whatever to enjoy
God’s salvation in Christ.197 The nation of Israel has been set aside
for the present as the vessel of Divine blessing to the world, while
the Gentiles, as set forth in Chapter Eleven, have now the privileged
place, and Jews and Gentiles come individually, upon believing, into a
heavenly inheritance. Nevertheless, “the promises” pertain nationally
to Israel, and to no other nation as such.

7. Whose are the
fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are directly referred to; and
Jacob’s sons also, especially Joseph, and Judah the vessel of royal
promise and blessing to Israel (Ps. 77:15; 80:1; 81:5; Gen. 49:8,10;
Heb. 7:14). Our hearts include Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets
when we think of Israel and remember “the fathers.” But it is
especially to Abraham, “the father of all them that believe,” that our
grateful memory turns; for, although we have no connection with Israel,
we do have indeed a vital connection with Abraham, as his “children.”

And of whom is Christ as to the flesh—who is over all God blessed unto
the ages! Amen.198 In Chapter 1:3 God’s Son is said to be “born of the
seed of David according to the flesh”; in John 1:14, we read: “The Word
became flesh”; in Hebrews 2:16: “He taketh hold of the seed of
Abraham”; and in Matthew 1:1, it is: “The book of the generation of
Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”

Now this
is an astonishing honor to Israel,—infinitely outranking all others:
our Lord, “the Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6), is, “according to the flesh,” an
Israelite! For two other things are immediately affirmed of Him: He is
over all, and He is God blessed unto the ages. The words “over all” are
partly explained in I Corinthians 15:27: “He [God the Father] put all
things in subjection under His [Christ’s] feet.” But in John 1:1, 3:
“The Word was God. All things were made through Him.” As in Col 1:16,
17: “All things were created through Him and unto Him; and by Him all
things consist” (hold together); so that Christ is indeed “over all,
God blessed forever”! (As to this ascription of deity to Christ, see
Kelly’s Notes on Romans, pp. 165-171.)

And now Paul falls back upon the sovereignty of God, accomplishing thereby three things:

he defends himself (and all of us) against the charge of teaching that
God had been unfaithful in His promises toward Israel; (2) he shows
that Israel’s own Scriptures had foretold their temporary rejection,
and the salvation of the Gentiles; and (3) he shows the great future
blessing which will come to Israel, in God’s sovereign MERCY. Let us read the text:

But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they
are not all Israel, that are of Israel; 7 neither, because they are
Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but. In Isaac shall thy seed be
called. 8 That is, It is not the children of the flesh that are
children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a
seed. 9 For this is a word of promise, According to this season willI
come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only so; but Rebecca also
having conceived by one,—by our father Isaac: 11 for [the children]
being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the
purpose of God, according to election might stand, not of works, but of
Him that calleth, 12—it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the
younger. 13 Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

The great revealed truth of the sovereignty of God perplexes many, disturbs others, and some take occasion to stumble at it.

6: But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought—Paul
here refers to those great promises God had made to Abraham, then to
Isaac, then to Jacob; conferring blessing upon their seed, announcing
Himself as God of Israel, giving them by oath the land of Palestine,
placing in David’s line the promise of perpetual royalty on earth;
prophesying a great and glorious future for Israel, not only in the
coming Millennium, or 1000 years kingdom here, but in the new earth
which follows that (Isa. 66:22). Paul’s immediate explanation (for it
looked as if these Divine promises had lapsed) was that not all that
are of Israel are really Israel before God.

Verse 7: Neither,
because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but. In Isaac
shall thy seed be called. I know, said our Lord, that ye are Abraham’s
descendants; but if you were Abraham’s children you would do the works
of Abraham. “If God were your Father, ye would love Me. Ye are of your
father the devil” (John 8:37 to 44). To regard religious privilege as
spiritual reality is the very deadliest delusion. The real sons of
Abraham are defined in Gal. 3:7: “Know therefore, that they that are of
faith, the same are sons of Abraham.” However, in the present passage,
the point is not that Abraham’s real children are those that believe,
but that Divine sovereign calling lies behind all. As God said to
Abraham concerning Ishmael, “Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a
son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my
covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him and
will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. But My
covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee
at this set time in the next year” (Gen. 17:19-21). The direct
quotation is from Gen. 21:12, when Ishmael was cast out. “In Isaac
shall thy seed be called.” This is Divine sovereign action. Now Paul
explains it:

Verse 8: That is, it is not the children of the
flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are
reckoned for a seed. What does the apostle mean by “The children of the
promise are reckoned for a seed”? It is most necessary that we perceive
that Paul is speaking here, not of man’s believing a promise and
therefore being written down as one of God’s children; but on the
contrary, of the promise (of God to Christ) that characterizes the
existence and calling of all the real children of God. He expounds this
in the next verse.

Verse 9: For this is a word of promise,
According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son—The
quotation is from Genesis 18:10. Read the connection there carefully.
Isaac, the coming child, did not believe the promise in order to be
born! But, God promised Isaac to Abraham, and kept His promise by a
miracle. When Isaac was born, therefore, he was a child of promise,—a
promised child, in God’s sovereign will.

Verses 10, 11: And
not only so, but Rebecca also having conceived by one, even by our
father Isaac—for the children being not yet born, neither having done
anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election
might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,—

In the
former passage it is brought out that Isaac was a child of promise, not
merely of natural generation. In the present passage the Divine
sovereignty—“the purpose of God according to election”—is seen
extending still further than birth, to the disposition of the condition
and affairs of the children thus promised. The elder shall serve the
younger, is not only a prophecy that Jacob would inherit and obtain the
Divine blessing, and that his seed (as in the days of David and
Solomon) would be temporarily triumphant over the Edomites, Esau’s
descendants; but also looks far into the future beyond the brief
triumph of the Herodians, the Edomites, in the days of Christ and the
apostles, to the day when, as Balaam was forced against his will to

“There shall come forth a Star out of Jacob,

And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel,

And shall smite through the corners of Moab,

And break down all the sons of tumult.

And Edom shall be a possession;

Seir also shall be a possession, who were his enemies;

While Israel doeth valiantly” (Num. 24:17, 18).

they [Israel and Judah when the Lord returns, agrees Isaiah], shall put
forth their hand upon Edom and Moab, and the children of Ammon shall
obey them” (Isa. 11:14).

Verses 12, 13: The elder shall serve
the younger, and, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated—These words are
chosen from the first and from the last books of the Old Testament. As
to “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” a woman once said to Mr.
Spurgeon, “I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau.”
“That,” Spurgeon replied, “is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is
to understand how God could love Jacob!” All men being sinners, we must
allow God to “retreat into His own sovereignty,” to act as He will. You
and I may say, Esau proved himself entirely unworthy of the covenant
blessings, for he despised them. This, however, will be seen to be a
shallow view of the statement of the eleventh verse, that the prophecy
of their future was told to their mother while the children were yet in
her womb, not having done anything good or bad. For the Divine
statement concerning His own election, and His providence that carries
out that election, is very plain, that it is not of works but of
Himself, who gives the creature his calling. We have already in Romans
seen and believed that righteousness is not of works but of Divine
grace—uncaused by us. Now let us just as frankly bow to God’s plain
statement that His purpose according to election is likewise not of
human works. That is to say, the favor of God to the children of
promise (to those whom He has given to Christ) is not procured by their
response to God’s grace, but contrariwise, their response to God’s
grace is because they have been given to Christ.

14 What shall
we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Far be the thought! 15
For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I
will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 16 So then. it is not
of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath
mercy. 17 For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose
did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee My power, and that My
name might be published abroad in all the earth. 18 So then He hath
mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth.

We have
now come upon that passage of Scripture against which the human mind—or
rather heart, rebels most of all. For it sets the creature as he really
is before God; not, indeed, as an automaton, nor in fatalistic
compulsion,—otherwise there were no morals, and no appeal in the gospel.

Nevertheless, it will be our only safe path to receive just as God writes it down, the truth we find here.

14,15: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Far
be the thought! For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have
mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. We have
only to remember the circumstances under which God thus spoke to Moses,
to see the righteousness of God’s sovereignty in mercy. There had been
the awful breach at Sinai: Israel had “changed their glory for the
likeness of an ox that eateth grass.” The eternal ineffably glorious
Jehovah in His indignation had said to Moses: “Let Me alone, that My
wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will
make of thee a great nation” (Ex. 32:10). Moses pleads for the people,
and the next day offers, if God will forgive them, to be himself
blotted out of God’s book! He said to the people: “I will go up unto
Jehovah; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin” (Ex. 32:30).
Forty days and forty nights this devoted man lay on his face
interceding for Israel, and God brought about, as we know, Moses’
mediatorship for Israel. (Study carefully Ex. 33; 34: especially Ex.
33:12-17; Ex. 34:1, 27, 28, 32.) God shows Moses himself favor; and
finally extends it to all the people. And note, it is in this
connection, and under these circumstances, and in answer to the
personal request of His beloved servant: “Show me, I pray thee, thy
glory,” that Jehovah says, “I will make all My goodness pass before
thee, and will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee; and I will be
gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will
show mercy” (Ex. 33:18, 19).

Now who can find fault with that?
Unless Jehovah shows mercy, Israel must all righteously perish. There
was no resource left in man! God, whose name is Love, must come out to
man and come in mercy, or all is over! And here we earnestly ask you to
read the remarkable words of Darby, in the foot-note below.199 It will
accomplish in the heart which weighs it carefully that reconciliation
of the sovereignty of God with God’s love and grace which is possible
alone to faith; and it will also enlighten the mind concerning God’s
dealings with Israel as recorded in these three great chapters of

Verse 16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor
of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy—Oh, that this great
verse might sink into our ears, into our very hearts! Perhaps no
statement of all Scripture so completely brings man to an utter end.
Man thinks he can “will” and “decide,” God-ward, and that after he has
so “decided” and “willed,” he has the ability to “run,” or, as he says,
to “hold out.” But these two things, deciding and holding out, are in
this verse utterly rejected as the source of salvation,—which is
declared to be God that hath MERCY. Human
responsibility is not at all denied here: man ought to will, and ought
to run. But we are all nothing but sinners, and can do,—will do,
neither: unless God come forth to us in sovereign mercy.200

17 and 18: For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh For this very purpose
did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee My power, and that My
name might be published abroad in all the earth. So then He hath mercy
on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth.

Now in
Pharaoh’s case, it is customary to emphasize the fact that he said:
“Who is Jehovah, that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go?
I know not Jehovah, and moreover I will not let Israel go” (Ex. 5:2).

we must go back of that to Exodus 4:21: “And Jehovah said unto Moses,
When thou goest back into Egypt, see that thou do before Pharaoh all
the wonders which I have put in thy hand: but I will harden [lit., make
strong] his heart, and he will not let the people go.”

“And I
will harden Pharoah’s heart and multiply My signs and My wonders in the
land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not hearken unto you, and I will lay My
hand upon Egypt, and bring forth My hosts. My people the children of
Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments” (Ex. 7:3, 4).

it is not necessary nor right to make God the author of Pharaoh’s
stubbornness. No more is it right to insist that if God be a God of
love He must save everybody, as all sorts of Universalists claim. Ex.
7:13, 14 records Pharaoh’s attitude after the first “wonder”; and then
God’s report of Pharaoh’s heart-condition,—for God sees the heart: “And
Pharaoh’s heart was hardened [lit., was strong], and he hearkened not
unto them; as Jehovah had spoken.”

“And Jehovah said unto
Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is heavy.’” Now the Hebrew word translated
“heavy” or “hard” here, is frequently used of that which weighs down,
as in Exodus 17:12: “Moses’ hands were heavy”; and in I Kings 12:10:
“Thy father made our yoke heavy.” See especially Isaiah 1:4: “A people
laden [lit., heavy] with iniquity.” On the whole, therefore, we are
compelled to see that Pharaoh’s heart was left by God simply in its
natural state,—heavy with iniquity. Unlike Jehoshaphat (II Chron.
17:6), his heart had never been “lifted up in the ways of Jehovah.”
Unlike David, he had not even felt the weight of his sins, for David
complains, in Psalm 38:4:

“Mine iniquities are gone over my head;

As a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”

The word heavy here is the same Hebrew word which God uses to describe Pharaoh’s heart, in Exodus 7:14.

had a perfect right to allow Pharaoh to remain (where we all would have
remained, apart from Divine sovereign mercy!), in a disobedient.
God-defying attitude: “Who is Jehovah that I should obey Him?” Pharaoh
fulfilled the Divine counsels. The plagues his rebellion brought on,
and his overthrow at the Red Sea, are celebrated in Exodus 15:14: “The
peoples have heard, they tremble.” The pagan Philistines, even in
Samuel’s day said: “These are the gods that smote the Egyptians with
all manner of plagues in the wilderness” (I Sam. 4:7, 8). Jehovah’s
name was indeed through this unregenerate rebel, Pharaoh, “published
abroad in all the earth,” just as He said!

What God’s Word
tells us as to His dealing with Pharaoh, explains “He hardeneth.” But
nothing else than a subject heart of faith will enter, with reverent
footstep, into the twice repeated words, “whom He will,” here. And we
say boldly, that a believer’s heart is not fully yielded to God until
it accepts without question, and without demanding softening, this
eighteenth verse.

Paul in the Spirit forestalls the natural operations of man’s proud heart:

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He still find fault? For who
withstandeth His will? 20 Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest
against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why
didst Thou make me thus? 21 Or hath not the potter a right over the
clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and
another unto dishonor?

In His infinite wisdom and knowledge
God reads with unerring accuracy the operations of the human heart:
“Man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the
heart.” Man says, If I am not one of God’s elect, an object of His
mercy, then I cannot do right, and God should not blame me. I asked an
intelligent man in western Michigan if he had believed on the Lord
Jesus Christ. He burst out into loud laughing, saying, “If I am elect,
I will go to heaven; and if I am not elect, there is no use in my
worrying about the question!” I rebuked him sternly, with these words:
“‘God commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch
as He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in
righteousness by the Man whom He hath ordained.’ ‘God’s commands are
God’s enablings,’ and if you will hearken to Him, you will be saved.
But you will not dare to say to God in that day, I could not come
because I was not of the elect; for that will not be true! The reason
you refused to come, will be found to be your love of sin, not your
non-election!” God says, “Whosoever will,” and the door is open to all,
absolutely all. God means “Whosoever”: and that is the word for you,
sinner; and not election, which is God’s business, not yours!

20: Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the
thing formed say to Him that formed it. Why didst thou make me thus?
Literally, this reads: “O man, yes! but rather,—you! who are you,
replying against God?”

Alford well says: “The words ‘yea,
rather,’ take the ground from under the previous assertion and
supersede it by another: implying that it has a certain show of truth,
but that the proper view of the matter is yet to be stated. They thus
convey, as in Luke 11:28, a rebuke,—here, with severity: ‘That which
thou hast said may be correct human reasoning,—but as against God’s
sovereignty, thy reasoning is out of place and irrelevant; the verse
implying. Thou hast neither right nor power to call God to account in
this matter.’ These verses are a rebuke administered to the spirit of
the objection, which forgets the immeasurable distance between us and
God, and the relation of Creator and Disposer in which He stands to us.”

Stifler warns: “He who replies against God must mean that it is God’s
hardening that deprives a soul of salvation; that if God did not
interpose with an election and take some and leave others to be
hardened, all men would have at least an equal opportunity of
salvation. This is false. If God did not elect, none would be saved,
for there is ‘none that seeketh after God’ (Rom. 3:11). And, men are
not lost because they are hardened; they are hardened because they are
lost; they are lost because they are sinners.

“God is not
responsible for sin. He is under no obligation to save any one.
Obligation and sovereignty cannot both be predicated of God. If He
saves any one it is a sovereign act of mercy.”

Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it. Why didst thou make me thus?

Thus speaks also Jehovah by Isaiah:

“Woe unto him that striveth with His Maker! a potsherd among the
potsherds of the earth! . . . Ye turn things upside down! Shall the
potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that
made it. He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it,
He hath no understanding?” (Isa. 45:9; 29:16.)

In the Scriptures, those who meet God, fall into the dust. “I am
but dust and ashes,” said Abraham, and Job: “Mine eye seeth Thee, and I
abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

A “thing,” yea,
and a formed thing, owing its very being to a Creator! Have we thus
considered ourselves? Our only proper creature-attitude is one of
faith, not questioning. As

“Frail creatures of dust,

And feeble as frail,

In Thee do we trust,

Nor find Thee to fail.”

are days of man-vaunting, and God-despising. But they shall soon end,
and the very earth on which man’s legions marched in such pride, shall
flee away “before the face of Him who sits upon the Throne”! (Rev.

Verse 21: Or hath not the potter a right over the
clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and
another unto dishonor? As concerns the right of the Divine Potter over
the human clay, we need to go with Jeremiah to “the potter’s house”: “I
went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he was making a work on
the wheels. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, O house of
Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Such as is the clay in the
potter’s hands, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jer. 18:3-6).
God called man “dust” in Eden (Gen. 2:7; 3:19). And, “The nations are
as a drop of a bucket and are accounted as the small dust of the
balance” (Isa. 40:15). When the apothecary would weigh an article
accurately, he whisks out with a breath from the balances any former
dust remaining therein: and there go the nations, all,—as regards
greatness before God! Yet here is one atom of this “small dust”
replying against God, saying, “What right has He to do thus with me?”

it will not do to answer, “God is love”; “God so loved the world.”
True, indeed. But God is God, and the nations are “less than nothing,
and vanity,” as you read in Isaiah 40:17, and in many other Scriptures.
God has rights high above all our poor comprehension. We know that God
will always act righteously. We are not God’s judges! God has a right
“from the same lump of human clay to make one part a vessel unto honor,
another unto dishonor.” No godly person challenges that right. Nay,
godly people most reverently bow to it! “What would the ability to
fashion be worth, if it were under the dictation of that which is to be

22 What if GOD, willing
to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endureth with much
longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction: 23 and that He
might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which
he afore prepared unto glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from
the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?

Verse 22: What if GOD—the
greatness of the Creator and the nothingness of the creature! God’s
will is supreme and right, even to His being willing to show publicly
His wrath—both at the day of judgment, and on through eternity. His
holiness and righteousness will be exhibited to all creatures in His
visitation of wrath upon the wicked:

And to make His power known—Job in astonishing words describes God’s power as seen in creation and providence, but adds:

“Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways:

And how small a whisper do we hear of Him!

But the thunder of His power who can understand?”

(Job 26:14.)

the day is coming when His power will be publicly exhibited in
overwhelming and eternal visitation upon the vessels of wrath. Let us
ponder this great passage:

What if GOD,
willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with
much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction?

Here we find:

That certain were fitted unto destruction. It is not said that God so
fitted them.201 But in Chapter Two we find those who “despise the
goodness and forbearance and long-suffering of God, not knowing that
the goodness of God was meant to lead them to repentance.” Of such it
is said that they “treasure up for themselves wrath in the day of

2. God had, we next read here, in their earth-life
dealt with these with much longsuffering. They never learned however,
as Peter urged, to “account that the longsuffering of our Lord is
salvation” (II Pet. 3:15). This longsuffering is the enduring on earth
of ungrateful rebels by a God surrounded in Heaven by the glad,
obedient hosts of light!

3. They thus became vessels of wrath:
those in and through whom God could publicly and justly display His
holy indignation against sin and godlessness,—for a warning to all ages
and creatures to come.

4. Thus these came to that destruction
unto which their sin had duly fitted them. Now this “destruction” is
not at all that cessation of being, of which we hear so much from
Satan’s false prophets in these days. But it is, according to II Thessalonians
1:7, 9, an eternal visitation of Divine anger “in flaming fire” from
the very presence of the Lord Himself! It not only involves the final
withdrawal of all mercy and long-suffering, but the eternal infliction
of Divine punishment upon the bodies of the damned.

5. The
terribleness of this is seen in the fact that this “destruction,” this
visitation of punishment upon the persons of the lost, will be made the
occasion of God’s exhibiting publicly both His holy wrath against sin,
and also His power in the punishment of it. His hatred of sin is
absolute,—and these will be made to experience it; His power is
infinite, and these will be compelled to be an example of it.

6. In the words What if GOD—should proceed thus? all creature-questionings are stilled into awful silence, if not today, some day!

23: Then at the next words: And that He might make known the riches of
His glory upon vessels of mercy, we are just as silent as before,
though in boundless, endless gratitude: for apart from mercy, we too
had become “vessels of wrath.” As Paul says in verse 29: Except the
Lord had dealt in mercy with us, we also “had become as Sodom!”

carefully that while it is God’s wrath and power that are to be made
known in the “vessels of wrath”; and though the glory of God would be
thus in His justice exhibited, He yet does not use the word glory in
connection with the damnation of the wicked. In Exodus 15:11 Moses and
the children of Israel do indeed celebrate the overthrow of Pharaoh, as
setting forth God’s praise, saying,

“Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods?

Who is like thee, glorious in holiness,

Fearful in praises, doing wonders?”

we must ever remember that God is love, from past eternity, and now,
and forever. So that it is written: “He delighteth in
mercy”—lovingkindness: (Micah 7:18); and, “As I live, saith Jehovah, I
have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn
from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). God will not exult over the lost!
witness Christ weeping over Jerusalem, and sorrowing over Judas (John
13:21); and the “lamentation” even over the fall of Lucifer (figured in
the King of Tyre, in the remarkable passage of Ezekiel 28:11ff.).

when God speaks in verse 23 of the vessels of mercy it is at once said
that He afore prepared them unto glory, that is, for entering into His
own glory (Romans 5:2), and that they will be the means of making known
through eternity to come the riches of His glory. So He speaks in
Ephesians 2:4 to 7 of His being “rich in mercy.” If it is true of us
that where our treasure is our hearts will be; it is infinitely more
true of God! God’s treasured riches are mercy and grace. Judgment, the
execution of wrath, He calls His “strange work,” His “strange act”
(Isa. 28:21). Mercy is the work dear to His heart!

Mark well
here this word “afore.” For the whole process of our salvation is
viewed from that blessed future day when we shall enter, through Divine
mercy, into that glory unto which God “afore” appointed us, and for
which He “afore” prepared us, in the work of Christ for us, and the
application to us of that work, by the blessed Holy Spirit. All was
“afore” arranged by God!

Verse 24: Even us, whom He also
called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles. How
constant, in Paul’s consciousness, the owing all to God’s sovereign
grace. “Prepared unto glory”202—in past eternity, in sovereign
election, and having a calling befitting that “preparing.” Surely no
one can miss, in this apostle, the supreme consciousness that he is
God’s,—not by his choice, but God’s own choice,—an eternally settled
thing, uncaused by Paul! All believers will have the same
consciousness, when they find, (as Paul found), along with their Divine
election, that there is in them, in their flesh, “no good thing”!

the apostle, having declared that these “vessels of mercy” were
“called,” both from Jews and Gentiles, adduces several plain Scriptures
(which the gainsaying Jews should have laid to heart).

25 As He saith also in Hosea,

I will call that my people which was not my people;

And her beloved, that was not beloved.

26 And it shall be, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people,

There shall they be called sons of the Living God.

27 And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel,

If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,

The Remnant shall be saved:

28 For He is bringing the matter to an end, and cutting it short in righteousness;

Because a matter cut short will the Lord make in the earth.

29 And, as Isaiah hath said before,

Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed,

We had become as Sodom, and had been made like unto Gomorrah.

25: I will call that my people which was not my people; and her beloved
that was not beloved. Paul here, in a most remarkable way, takes from
the prophet (Hosea 2:23) a passage that distinctly refers to Israel: as
Peter, quoting the same place says: “Ye are an elect race, a royal
priesthood, a holy nation, who in time past were no people, but now are
the people of God.” For here we see the “Remnant according to the
election of Grace,” addressed by Peter, their Apostle. The nation after
the flesh was apostate; but God views believing Israelites as
perpetuating—not the national place, which has been forfeited for the
present—but His lovingkindness to those which He had called His
“people”; His “elect nation.” “To you first,” Peter said to Israel
after Pentecost, “God, having raised up His Son, sent Him to bless
you.” So that Paul and Peter are in perfect agreement that Hosea 2:23
fits believing Israelites.

And then we have Hosea quoted again! But now it is Chapter 1:10, last part.

26: And it shall be, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye
are not my people, there shall they be called sons of the living God.
Here now come the Gentiles,—according to verse 24. No Gentile nation
was ever called a people of God! Nor are the Gentiles today called
such. Although in the Millennium all the Gentiles “upon whom the Lord’s
Name is called,” will seek Him (Acts 15:17); yet Israel are his elect
people, always.

But now “some better thing” has been provided
for us (Heb. 11:40) both Jewish and Gentile believers of this “day of
salvation”: Sons of the Living God! See Galatians 4:1-7. The Spirit of
God’s Son cries Abba, Father, in our hearts, who “partake of the
heavenly calling.”

God’s infinite grace takes up those who
were once (and that by our Lord Himself) called “dogs”—as compared with
the “children”—nation of Israel, and gives them a heavenly calling: far
above that of earthly Israel,—even when restored! “Sons of the Living
God”—oh, let us give praise unto Him!

Verse 27: And Isaiah
crieth concerning Israel, If the number of the children of Israel be as
the sand of the sea, the Remnant shall be saved. Here the apostle takes
another prophet, Isaiah, and quotes again from two passages; and again
from the later one first. The 27th verse is from Isaiah 10:22. Some
estimate the Jewish population as 20,000,000 (though that probably is
too high). If we read Ezekiel 20:33-38, we see the Lord Jehovah, “with
wrath poured out” bringing Israel out from the nations (He is beginning
this now!); and cutting off “the rebels” amongst them,—the rebels
against the national Divine calling as a separate nation to Jehovah.
Only the Remnant will be left; for, as Isaiah says, “a destruction is
determined!” How solemn these words! And let them sink into our foolish
Gentile hearts; for only a “few men left” of all the nations, will
enter the Millennium.

Verse 28: For He is bringing the matter
to an end, and cutting it short in righteousness: Because a matter cut
short will the Lord make in the earth. The ways of God should be the
study of the saints. He waits long,—He forbears—He is silent: then He
suddenly puts into execution an eternally-formed purpose! Thus it was
at the Flood, and in the destruction of Sodom, and afterwards of the
Canaanites. Also now, for a long season, God has been letting the
nations go on in comparative quiet, filling up the earth with much the
largest population ever known; and despite their various persecutions
the Jews have also been relatively secure from that Divine
“indignation” which all students of Scripture know is yet to be brought
to a terrible “end” upon them. The awful words of Ezekiel 20:35, 36 are
to be fulfilled—“cut short in righteousness.” The expression there “the
wilderness of the people,”—where the Jews will have no national friend
or refuge whatever, except Palestine; and Jehovah “entering into
judgment” with them, “like as He entered into judgment with their
fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt” (when he turned them
back from Kadesh-barnea to die in the wilderness)—all this remains to
be done,—and in “a short work.”

The Remnant shall be saved
[the majority having been slain in the Great Tribulation] for He is
ending up the matter [of His dealing with Israel] and cutting it short
[in the time of “Jacob’s trouble”—the “forty-two months”; the “time,
times, and a half”;—three and a half years, of Daniel’s Seventieth
Week] in righteousness, because a matter cut short will the Lord make
on the earth.

Every student of Scripture should be familiar by
this time with the general “mould of prophecy.” Therefore we have
boldly inserted in brackets the evident meaning here. It is the great
crisis of prophecy here in view, the closing up not only of the times
of the Gentiles, but of God’s dispensational dealings with national
Israel, the Remnant of whom—a “very small Remnant”—will be saved;
preserved through the Great Tribulation to bless the earth after the
Lord returns. Any reader of Scripture will be astonished, and deeply
edified if he will take a concordance and study God’s Word about the

God is now letting matters run on in general, both
among the Gentiles and Israel. This will shortly be utterly changed,
even to what scientists call the “laws” of the powers of the
heavens—and a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. (See
Author’s book on The Revelation, p. 140, ff).

This involves,
of course, that the most of the natural children of Israel will be cut
off; that it will be only the elect Remnant who will be saved and share
in the Millennial Kingdom; which, as the prophecies concerning the
“Remnant” abundantly testify, that Remnant will enjoy. (See last nine
chapters of Ezekiel; Isa. 10:21, 22; and Chapter 35; Jer. 31:1-14.)

29: Israel might object to the doctrine of “the Remnant,” the “election
of grace” by God; but the quotation in verse 29, from Isaiah 1:9 shows
that if God had not intervened in sovereign grace, they would have all
become as Sodom [in iniquity], and been made like unto Gomorrah [in
their damnation]. It was sovereign goodness that saved204 any
Israelites,—just as it is sovereign goodness that saves any Gentiles.

it becomes plain (for Israel is but a sample of the human race) that
opposition to the truth of Divine elective mercy arises from ignorance
of or blindness to the utter sinfulness and wholly lost state, of
mankind. All would go to perdition unless God in mercy intervened!

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, those not at all pursuing after
righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which
is of faith: 31 but Israel, pursuing after a law [which should give]
righteousness, did not arrive at [such a] law. 32 Wherefore? Because
they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at
the Stone of stumbling; 33 even as it is written,

Behold, I lay in Zion a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence:

And he that believeth on Him shall not be put to shame.

We here have a most remarkable passage, full of the deepest consolation on the one hand, and warning on the other.

were the Gentiles, deep in the sin described in Chapters One and Two,
occupied with superstition and idolatry. Paul said in Athens, a city
full of idols, “I perceive that in all things ye are very religious”
(lit.,“demon-fearing”). There was no seeking after righteousness before
a holy God! Paul quotes in Chapter Three those Psalms which declare
there is “none that seeketh after God.” For the Gentiles, of Antioch in
Pisidia, for example, were not pursuing after righteousness; but here
come Paul and Barnabas, preaching; and “the whole city is gathered
together to hear the Word of God.” And when the Jews reviled the
blessed gospel of grace,

“Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and
said, it was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to
you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of
eternal life [How terrible!—dying men refusing life!] lo, we turn to
the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set
thee for a light of the Gentiles, That thou shouldest be for salvation
unto the uttermost part of the earth. And as the Gentiles heard this,
they were glad, and glorified the word of God: and as many as were
ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spread
about throughout all the region” (Acts 13:44, 46-49).

Here is good news for bad men!—men who had never read the Old
Testament Scriptures, nor “pursued after righteousness”; yet, though
Gentiles, hearing the gospel and believing, they walk right into
righteousness by faith, past the Jews, who had been pursuing
after—what? a law that should give them righteousness. Note, we are not
told that even the Jews were pursuing after righteousness, but after a
law by which, through their self-efforts, they hoped to attain
righteousness! They did not, like the Gentiles, as sinners, simply
believe the good news of a God of grace. But although their own Law
would have convicted them of sin if they had really heard205 it, yet
they kept pursuing after a Law whose requirements they could not meet
but in possessing and pursuing after which, they gloried! It was all
as-it-were-works,—a dream!

They did not arrive at that law,—it
was always just ahead, out of reach! Why? Because they never directly
trusted God! Having the conceit of the self-righteous,—that some day
they would attain God’s final acceptance of their works, they never
thought of needing God’s mercy, or of “simply trusting” Him, as they
were,—as David does in Psalm Fifty-one!

So when Christ came,
saying, “Transfer your trust from yourselves to Me! Moses gave you the
Law, but none of you keepeth the Law”:—they turned in fury and slew the
Righteous One!

So the Jews stumbled. Now, it takes a spiritual
mind and a subject heart to read with profit what is here. Were there
Divine commands in the Law? Certainly. Were there hopes connected with
fully keeping them? Certainly. “The man that doeth the righteousness
which is of the Law shall live thereby” (Lev. 18:5; Rom. 10:5). Were
there those that professed righteousness by the Law? Yes, on every
side: Pharisees, priests, scribes,—who also became the crucifiers of
Christ! But what else do we read in the Old Testament? We read from
Genesis 3:15 throughout Scripture that there was a Seed, the Seed of
the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, through whom alone
salvation and blessing would come. “This is the name by which He shall
be called, Jehovah our righteousness.” As David cried, “I will make
mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only” (Ps. 71:16). But also
it was also plainly written of Him, “They shall smite the Judge of
Israel with a rod upon the cheek”; and that He would “hide not His face
from shame and spitting”; that He would be “despised and rejected”;
that His hands and feet would be “pierced,” but that “through the
knowledge of Himself, God’s Righteous Servant, [Messiah] should
constitute many righteous” (Isa. 53:11). So He, Christ, the meek and
lowly One, who went about doing them good, who healed them, loved them,
and finally died for them,—became to them the Stone of Stumbling! And
it was in Zion, where they had the Law, that this Stone of stumbling
was to be laid. Now the only way to have Him is to believe on Him:
otherwise, He was a Rock of offence. He offended all the claims of the
Jews as “children of Abraham”; He offended all their false claims of
righteousness, by the light which He was,—the Holy One. He offended the
leaders of Israel, by exposing their sin. He offended the hopes of an
immediate, carnal, earthly kingdom, by showing that only those poor in
spirit and pure of heart would be in that kingdom. In short, He
offended the nation by overthrowing its whole superstructure of works
built on sand,—as-it-were-works!

However, there were those
that believed on Him—the “poor of the flock,” and they were not then,
and shall not be put to shame. (See comment on Chap. 10:11.)

so, today, the true gospel of Christ crucified, bringing out our guilt
and the danger of Divine wrath, offends men who would like to come and
“join the church” in their respectability! Respectability of what? Of
filthy rags!206

It is a humanly incurable delusion of the
human heart that salvation is within the natural reach; and that at any
time if a man will “make up his mind like a man,” and “hold out to the
end,” God will certainly accept him. But this conception leaves out
entirely the word “mercy.” The very name of this plan is Vain
Confidence. It has doomed and damned its millions. For, salvation being
altogether of God, the soul who is bugging the delusion that it is “of
him that willeth,” “of him that runneth,” is making God a liar and
walking in blind pride.

You ask. Is there not a place for
human responsibility? Does not God command all men to repent? Does He
not say: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely?” He
does. But the Ninth of Romans is no place to discuss that subject, and
that because God does not here discuss it. You say, If Christ “gave
Himself a ransom for all”; and God “would have all men to be saved”; if
Christ “tasted death for every man,” if “God was in Christ reconciling
the world unto Himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses,” and
is now sending out His ambassadors to beseech men to be reconciled to
God—how can these statements be reconciled with God’s words in verse
18: “So then He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He

Friend, who set you or me to “reconcile” (which
means to reduce to the compass or our mental grasp) the sayings of the
infinite God of truth? If I wait to believe the statements of God the
Creator until I can “reconcile” them with my creature conceptions, that
is not faith, but presumption.

Moreover, unless you receive
both doctrines: on the one hand, that of the death of Christ for all,
and the actual, bona fide offer of salvation through His cross, to all
who will believe; and, on the other hand, that of the absolute
sovereignty of the God who “hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He
will, hardeneth,” you will neither believe Scripturally either
doctrine, nor clearly preach either. You will be either preaching a
“limited atonement”—that Christ died only for the elect; or, on the
other hand, refusing to surrender to God’s plain statement of His
sovereign election, you will preach that Christ having died for all,
God’s election depends on man’s will. A shallow preacher in California
cried, “It is election day: God is voting for you and the devil is
voting against you, and you cast the deciding vote!” Of such
antiscriptural statements the folly is evident. God distinctly says in
Chapter 9:16: “It is net of him that willeth”; and in verse 11: “That
the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but
of Him that calleth.”

You say, “What then shall we teach?” We
answer: Teach the words of Scripture and let it go at that. God can
“reconcile” His own Word!

Many years ago a widely-known and
beloved teacher of God’s Word said to me, “I do not like to assert a
truth too positively; I like always to teach a truth modified by any
seemingly contradictory truth.” I had myself observed in his discussion
of a Scripture doctrine his citation of “authorities”: “So-and-so says
this; on the other hand, So-and-so says that: now take your choice.”
But in his later years, because he was a constant and devoted reader of
God’s Word, his manner of teaching quite changed: he was willing to
take such a passage as the Ninth of Romans and teach it as it is, and
say, “Thus saith the Lord”; and leave it there. And when there came up
another line of truth that could not be “reconciled” with the first, in
the mind of men, he taught this second truth also just as God stated
it, and left it there.

Now if there is any passage of God’s
Word in which He seems to say: I am Myself assuming all responsibility
for what I here announce, it is this same Ninth of Romans.

remember it’s closing words: “He that believeth on Him [Christ] shall
not be put to shame!” God’s simple-hearted, trusting saints are quite
ready, having received God’s great gift of Eternal Life in Christ, to
await the day when they shall “know fully”—as they have been known.
Meanwhile, they walk by faith, with humble hearts, sub

ject to what God says.


1. Man was lost—he could not save himself.

2. He was guilty—none could pardon him but the God he had sinned against.

3. He was by nature “a child of wrath” not deserving good; nor being able to change his nature.

He was allied with God’s Enemy; and had a mind at enmity against God: a
mind not subject, nor able to be subject to God’s law or will.

He knew he was doing things “worthy of death”; but not only persisted
in them, but was in league-approval with those of like practice; he was
“of the world,” not of God.

6. Therefore, if any move be made toward man’s salvation, it must come from God, not man.

7. God, being God, knew beforehand that the attitude of every man by nature toward his overtures would be to oppose them.

Since any real response to these overtures, therefore, must come from
God’s grace, He must elect to overcome effectually man’s resistance,

(a) In no case,

(b) Or, in every case,

(c) Or, in certain cases.

9. To hold God unable to overcome man’s resistance in any case is to limit His power.

But to hold that God is unwilling to have certain saved is to deny His
repeated word—“Who would have all men to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth”; “As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no
pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his
way and live.”

11. Therefore, it would seem that only in those
cases in which it would no longer be consistent with God’s glory—that
is, consistent with His holiness and righteousness, and His just
government of His creatures, would God withhold, or refuse longer to
employ. His gracious operations in behalf of any creature.

But, when we consider Election, we must remove our thoughts wholly from
this world, the first Adam, the sin of man, and his “attitude” toward
God. The purpose of God according to Election is “not of works, but of
Him that calleth.” It is outside human history altogether. It is of God.


Bishop Moule remarks upon the impossibility of Paul’s really making
such a prayer: “To desire the curse of God would be to desire not only
suffering, but moral alienation from Him, the withdrawal of the soul’s
capacity to love Him. Thus the wish would be in effect an act of
‘greater love for our neighbor than for God.’ Again, the redeemed soul
is ‘not its own’: to wish the self to be accursed from Christ would
thus be to wish the loss of that which He has ‘bought and made His
own.’ But, the logical reason of the matter apart, we have only to read
the close of Chapter 8, to see how entirely a moral impossibility it
was for Paul to complete such a wish.”


envy of other races and nations towards God’s elect nation Israel has
always existed. But there is a mild phase and a virulent phase of this
Gentile sin-disease that should be noted:

First, the mild
phase: this is Anglo-Israelism, the teaching that the Anglo-Saxons,
especially Britain and America (Britain as Ephraim and America as
Manasseh!) are the “lost ten tribes” who, carried away East across the
Euphrates in God’s Judgment,—turned East into West and landed at the
British Isles! No; British and Americans are lost, but they are not The
Ten Tribes!

Second, the virulent phase of this jealousy and
envy towards elect national Israel appears in “anti-Semitism,” or
anti-Jewism; and has lately been carried to new depths of pagan infamy
by Hitler in Germany. For this phase of Gentile envy rejects Scripture.
Mr. Hitler hates the Jews and declares for “pure Aryan blood”—(pray
where would you find it?). Carrying his boasting hatred to its logical
conclusion, he rejects the Word of God as authority, and turns back to
the old pagan gods of Northern Europe.

Now all hatred of
national Israel arises from rebellion against Divine sovereign
election. We know that Israel has failed God: but God declares He will
not fail them finally, whereas the hate of modern Gentiles (wiser than
God—for are they not the “moderns”?) would seek to crush Israel and
exalt Gentiledom. Of course, it will end in the Antichrist, but the
Lord Jesus will end him, and all Gentile boasting, at “the forthshining
of His arrival” (II Thess. 2:8, Rotherham).


It is indeed an infinitely blessed fact that all who believe share in
the benefits of that “everlasting covenant” of Heb. 13:20, made between
the Father and the Son, on these conditions: that if the Son would come
to earth and die for our sins, the Father would bring Him again from
the dead as the great Shepherd of the sheep, Paul says in I Corinthians
11:25, “In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is
the new covenant in My blood.” (The “New Covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah” has not yet been made; for we read
that it will be made after these [Gentile] days. See Acts 15:13-16.)
When our Lord said therefore, “This cup is the new covenant in My
blood,” He must, we believe, refer to that covenant of Heb. 13:20; to
which covenant, as we have said, the Father and the Son were parties.
Even concerning the New Covenant to be made in the future with Israel,
God says in Rom. 11:27: “And this is the covenant from Me unto them,
when I shall take away their sins.” It is no longer blessing
conditioned on their obedience, but it is the day of Jehovah s “power”
to Israel (Ps. 110:3), not merely a “visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).


Some accurate book setting forth the absolute difference between the
Church and Israel should be read, such as Israel and the Church, by
James H. Brookes; or Mr. Blackstone’s (W. E. B.) always excellent Jesus
Is Coming.


questions concerning both Romans 9:5 and I Timothy 3:16 have arisen
from the mists of doubt rather than from the heights of childlike faith
in God’s revelation of the deity of Christ. See Alford’s excellent and
exhaustive note on 9:5, from the end of which we quote:

conjecture arising from doctrinal difficulty is ever to be admitted in
the face of the consensus of mss. and versions. The rendering given
above is, then, not only that most agreeable to the usage of the
Apostle, but the only one admissible by the rules of grammar and
arrangement. It also admirably suits the context: for having enumerated
the historic advantages of the Jewish people, he concludes by stating
one which ranks far higher than all,—that from them sprung, according
to the flesh, He who is God over all, blessed forever.”


the apostle shows Israel from their own history that they must leave
God to His sovereignty or else they must lose their promises; and then
that in the exercise of this sovereignty He will let in the Gentiles,
as well as the Jews. If, says Paul, you Israelites will take your
promises by descent, we will just see what comes of it. You say, we be
Abraham’s seed, and have a right to the promises by descent; for these
Gentiles are but dogs, and have no right to share with us in God’s
promises. Well, if God has His sovereignty, He will in grace let in
these Gentile dogs! But now I will prove to you that you cannot take
the promises by descent. In the first place, ‘They are not all Israel
which are of Israel’; yet if it is by descent you must take in all
Abraham’s seed, And if you take in Abraham’s children, then you must
take in Ishmael—those Arabians! Oh no, say they, we cannot allow that;
what! Ishmaelites in the congregation of Israel, and heirs of promise?
Yes, if by descent! You must take it by grace; and if it is by grace,
God will not confine this grace to you, but will exercise it toward the

“But now, to go further down in your history, you
have Jacob and Esau; and if you go by descent, you must let in the
Edomites by the same title as yourselves. But in verses 5 and 9, it
says, ‘The children of the promise are counted for the seed’: so that
it must rest on Isaac and Jacob, and Ishmael and Esau remain outside:
therefore your mouth must now be closed as to descent, for your mouth
is bound up by God’s saying, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I
hated.’ He has chosen, according to His sovereign title, to bless you,
and on that alone your blessing depends; as your own history shows, and
your own prophetic testimony proves. You cannot rest it on a mere title
by descent. But further, see how their (the Jews’) mouth is stopped:
for when did God say, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy’?
When every Israelite had lost all title to everything God had to give,
then God retreated, if I may use the expression, into His own
sovereignty, that He might not cut them off.”

[See Exodus
33:19, after the great breach made by Israel’s worshipping the golden
calf, while Moses was standing in the mount with Jehovah!]

this act, Israel had forfeited everything: they had cast off the
promises, which they had accepted on the condition of their own
obedience (Ex. 19:8), and the God who made the promises, and who alone
could fulfil them. Could God overlook this sin? Israel had undertaken
to have the promises by their obedience; if God had dealt with Israel
in righteousness, every one must have been cut off. What could God do,
but retreat, as I said, into His own sovereignty? There He had a
resource; for if any of them are to be spared, it must be in this way
of mercy. ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.’ Man is
entirely lost, so now God says, I will act for Myself. Taking a truth
in connection with all other truth gives it its right and proper place,
and its own Divine force.

“Say now, you Jews, (and you, my
reader, ask yourself the question), will you be willing to be dealt
with in righteousness? No, you would not! Then do not talk about it,
until you can go to God on that footing. But if you have such a
conviction of sin as stops your mouth about righteousness, and so
excludes all boasting, you will rejoice in the ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion’
of God, who retreats into His own sovereignty, that He may know how to
spare; because in this sovereignty He can show mercy.”


has come forth at Calvary! He has set forth Christ as a propitiation
through faith in His blood. Here is infinite love, displayed when human
sin was at its topmost height of frightful guilt and malignity.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
were the words spoken in tenderness to God the Father by God the Son at
the moment wicked hands were nailing Him to a cross of agony—spoken by
One whose face was “marred more than any man.”

Therefore in
the gospel is power to turn men’s hearts, for it is the goodness of God
that leadeth us to repentance. “That repentance and remission of sins
should be preached in my Name,” said our risen Lord, He of the pierced
hands and feet and side!


Nevertheless, we must
let certain Scriptures lie Just as they are, whether or not they
consort with our conceptions, or whether we find ourselves able to
“reconcile” them with our “theological system” or not. We quote a few
of these Scriptures:

The wicked are estranged from the womb;

They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3).

Jehovah hath made everything for its own end;

Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov 16:4).

They stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (I Pet. 2:8).

when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit
iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall . . . die in
his sin, and his righteous deeds which he hath done shall not be
remembered (Ezek 3:20).

“Because they had not executed Mine
ordinances, but had rejected My statutes, . . . I gave them statutes
that were not good, and ordinances wherein they should not live” (Ezek

However, even in these passages, solemnly terrible
as they are, we must separate God’s actions from man’s responsibility.
God is not the author of evil; He tempteth no man; “He would have all
men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”


Hodge’s remarks here are excellent: “The passive participle may be
taken as a verbal adjective, fit for destruction. Of the vessels of
wrath, it is simply said that they are fit for destruction; but of the
vessels of mercy, that God prepares them for glory. Why this change if
the apostle did not intend to intimate that the agency of God is very
different in the one case from what it is in the other? God does not
create men in order to destroy them. God did not make Pharaoh wicked
and obdurate; but as a punishment for his sin, he so dealt with him
that the evil of his nature revealed itself in a form, and under
circumstances, which made him a fit object of the punitive justice of


See Gen. 45:7; Isaiah 1:9; 10:21,22; 11:11, 16; 46:3; Jer. 23:3; Ezek.
6:8; Amos 5:15; Mic. 2:12; 5:7, 8; Zeph. 2:7, 9; 3:13; Zech. 8:6, 11,


these passages brought by the Spirit from the Old Testament and fitting
present times precisely, we are again face to face with the marvels of
God’s inspiration. William Kelly well says:

“What a witness of
Divine truth, of indiscriminate grace, that the gospel, in itself
unprecedented and wholly distinct both from what was seen under the Law
and what will be when the Kingdom appears in power and glory, does
nevertheless find its justification from words both of mercy and of
judgment uttered hundreds of years before by the various servants God
sent to declare His message to His people! But, as they blindly
despised them and rejected His word then for idols, so now they
fulfilled them yet more in the rejection of Christ and hatred of the
grace which, refused by them, was sought and received by Gentiles, and
thus yet more proved the word Divine, to the confusion of the unbelief
which is as blind as it is proud and selfish” (Kelly, Notes on Romans,
in loc).


So Paul to the Galatians: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not HEAR
the law?” (Gal. 4:21.) Paul himself, he tells us, was “alive apart from
the Law once,”—although he knew the Law and gloried in it and observed
its outward ordinances. But the day came, as he showed in Chapter 7,
when he “heard” it; it became a distinct spiritual command to his soul
to do the righteousness commanded.


Sir Robert
Anderson relates: “A lady of my acquaintance, well known in the higher
ranks of London society, called upon me one day to ask for police help,
to relieve her from certain annoyances. Her evident distress at my
inability to give her the protection she sought, led me to remark that
the peace of God in the heart was a great antidote to trouble. “Ah,”
said she, “if I were only like you!” “If it depended on my merit,” I
replied with real sincerity, “it is you who would have the peace, not
I”, Presently her manner changed, and with tears in her eyes she told
me something of her spiritual struggles. If she could be more earnest,
more devout, more prayerful, she was sure that God would accept her.

was greatly interested,” I remarked, “by what I heard about the supper
you gave the tramps last week. Did they offer you anything for it? Of
course, they had no money, but they might have brought you some of
their coats and shirts!”

“If you had only seen their coats and shirts!” she exclaimed with a smile.

rags they were. I’m sure,” said I, “and what you don’t believe is that
in God’s sight ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.’”