1. Though they had not actively been looking for it (30a)
  2. Yet many have attained righteousness through faith (30b)

Once again Paul asked his familiar rhetorical question, What then shall we say? (cf. 4:1; 6:1; 8:31; 9:14) preparatory to his summation of this situation[1]

Ro 1:17; 4:11; 10:20

The unbelief of Israel does not violate the prerequisite of God.  And what is the prerequisite of God for a relationship to Him?  What does God require from us to be related to Him?  What's the one word?  Faith. 

This section is a welcome balance to the heavy dose of sovereignty we've been exposed to because this section talks about our responsibility, human responsibility, faith, faith.  It puts us back in the divine tension where we're more comfortable, right?  We get too heavy on the end of sovereignty and we really get confused, we really start bearing some heavy loads.  And we need another side of that tension, that human responsibility, that faith.  We need that apparent paradox, we need that balance again.

          Now these are mutually exclusive things, the absolute and utter sovereignty of God planned before the world began, all worked out according to His plan, and our faith and our responsibility.  They're mutually exclusive. They appear to us to be contradictory and opposite. They are in truth, however, not.  It's just that our minds are too limited, we can't perceive it.  In God's mind they have perfect harmony.

 Paul moves from divine sovereignty to human responsibility. Note that Paul did not say “elect” and “nonelect,” but rather emphasized faith. Here is a paradox: the Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “Law righteousness.” The Jews thought that 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. 3:22–23). Instead of permitting their religious privileges (Rom. 9:1–5) to lead them to Christ, they used these privileges as a substitute for Christ.[1]

Now Paul's been saying the Jews have no claim on salvation. . Only a remnant was supposed to be saved.  So we're not surprised at that.  It's no change in God's promise.  It's no violation of His person and it's no alteration of His plan.  And now he says what we've been waiting to hear. It was also their own fault.  That's right. It was also their own fault.  And if you can't figure how those two go together, just be happy that you're like every other person who ever faced this doctrine.  We can't figure it out either.  We just believe it.

       He shows that unbelief was their responsibility and due to their own unbelief and their own rejection, they were guilty and they were judged on the basis of their own guilt.  Ro 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;

 There's no article here, that Gentiles who followed not after righteousness, who didn't pursue it, diōkō, to run swiftly after something, to run earnestly endeavoring to acquire it.  That the people who never even chased it, who never even pursued it got it.

          "What does he mean by that?"  Just this, Gentiles are without God, without hope, without the Word of God, empty, abandoned to their sinful life.  Read Romans 1, given over to lust, given over to evil, given over to reprobate mind.  You think that the Gentiles, you think the mass of people in the world are pursuing the true God and His righteousness? 

 How to be right with God is not the main pursuit of the world, is it?  The world is not madly trying to get right with the true God.  And here is the world, all these Gentiles, who weren't pursuing it and when the gospel came, far more of them believed it than the Jews did.           

Paul says isn't that shocking that the Gentiles who never even pursued righteousness as a way of life attained it.  Galling to the Jew to hear him say this, by the way.  But when the gospel came, that's exactly what happened.

          Why?  Here's the answer to the question I gave you at the beginning.  Because the greatest obstacle to salvation is self- righteousness.  You understand that?  Because you can't get saved if you don't know you need it, right?  And that's what hung up the Jews. They thought they were already righteous.  You see, they had spent their whole life pursuing a right relationship with God through their own efforts. So when the gospel came and condemned their sin, it did not compute because they thought themselves righteous.  So the Jews rejected, except for a small remnant, small remnant.

          The Gentiles who followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness, How did the Gentiles get saved?  How did the Gentiles come to righteousness?" Sovereign election; God chose them before the foundation of the world. That's not what it says.  It says, they attained to righteousness, watch this in verse 30, the end of the verse, even the righteousness which is by election.  Is that what it says?  No.  Which is what? Faith.  Aren't you happy to see that?  Doesn't that relieve some of the pressure?  Now you're back in balance again, aren't you?

          He says this, "Even the righteousness (should be) which is by faith."  Did they get it by works?  No.  Does he talk about sovereign election?  He's now turned a corner and he's talking about human responsibility.  He says, "Hey, the Gentiles who never even as a way of life pursued a right relationship with God got one by faith."  Believing, that's the heart of the gospel, beloved.  That's the heart of the gospel.  Go back through Romans, chapter 1 verse 17, chapter 3 verse 21, verse 22, verse 28, verse 30, chapter 4 verse 3, verse 9, verse 10, verse 11, verse 12, verse 16, 17, 18, 19, all the way to 25, chapter 5 verse 1, chapter 10 verses 3, 6, and 10, on Philippians 3:9,

How many places can you read in the Bible where the writer talks about salvation by faith?  It's the heart of the gospel. We are justified by faith. And there's the human response.  The Gentile got it not because he was elect, but because he believed.  That's the balance of human responsibility.

  1. FOR ISRAEL (31-33)
  2. Though diligent for the Law, did not have the attitude of faith (31-32a)

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

Ro 10:2; 11:7; Ga 5:4

Verse 31: "But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness." 

Did they do that?  The word "law" means principle, or standard.  They pursued the principle of righteousness.  It was a way of life, we must be righteous, we must be righteous, we've got to do this and not do that and do this and not do that. And they had all this countless prescriptions pursuing the principle of righteousness, pursuing the standard of righteousness incessantly as a way of life they did that.  And they did it all by what?  By works. Proud-hearted legalists pursuing self-righteously a right relationship to God and it says they went after the law of righteousness and they did not attain it.  They didn't get it.

          32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law

You say, "They weren't elect, weren't chosen."  It's not what it says.  You say, "Why didn't they get it?"  Verse 32, that's what Paul says, why?  Why didn't they get it?  Because they sought it not by what? By faith."  That simple.  There is salvation by seeking with faith, not pursuing by works.  I'm going to get better, I'm going to do better, I'm going to act better, I'm going to think better, I'm going to talk better and God will like me better and then I'll be okay with Him. 

 No, it's saying, the only thing that you can do to be saved is to believe that you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself on the mercy of God.

          Some of the Gentiles did that, great numbers of them.  A few Jews did.  But Israel, who all their life had pursued a standard of righteousness, never got it because they sought it not by faith. But it says, as it were, "by the works of the law."  They tried to get it by law keeping, by their own abilities.  In fact, a gracious, merciful salvation given as a free gift was an offense to a self-righteous Jew, because it said none of your works matter, none of your works count and he couldn't handle that.  That's why they rejected Jesus with such anger, such bitterness, such hatred because they were so offended that all their life-long of all these righteous deeds added up to Zero and when they looked at the cross and they were told this man is dying for your sins, the cross was to them what?  First Corinthians 1, foolishness, foolishness, it offended them, it offended them.

          Paul says, "Well, they didn't get it because they didn't believe.  And the Gentiles got it because they believed.  And that's how you get it, by believing."  And that's the perfect balance to the sovereignty of God.

          Now Paul wants to sort of affirm his point so he does what he's done through the whole chapter, he quotes two Old Testament prophetic texts.  One prophet, two texts.  He quotes from Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16. Verse 32, the end of the verse, "For they stumbled at that stumbling stone."  That's drawn from Isaiah 8:14.  Isaiah predicted that they would stumble on a stumbling stone.  That's right.  He predicted it.  So we're not shocked.  We're not surprised that the Jew didn't believe because Isaiah said they stumbled at the stone.  And that's what they did.  Jesus came and said He was the cornerstone, didn't He?  The chief cornerstone, but for some He was a stone of what? Stumbling, a stone of stumbling.

          The Isaiah 8:14 passage directly refers to God.  God is the stone in Isaiah 8:14.  In the New Testament, Christ is the stone.  What does that tell you about Christ?  He's God.  Another affirmation of His deity.  For 1 Peter 2:8 affirms that Christ is that stone over which the Jews stumbled.

  1. And therefore stumbled over Christ, as foretold by Isaiah (32b-33)

32bFor they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

Lu 2:34; 1Co 1:23

 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."

Ps 118:22; Isa 8:14; 28:16; Mt 21:42; Ro 10:11; 1Pe 2:6-8

Paul closes out the chapter with a reference to one other text in Isaiah, Isaiah 28:16, and he combines it with his Isaiah 8:14,15 passage.  He just puts them together.  "As it is written from Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 to 15, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense and whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed."  He puts those together.  Jesus Christ for some is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense.  He offends.  He causes people to fall over.  And the stumbling stone can have, I think, the primary imagery of they trip over Him.  They don't notice His significance.  That's one element of it.

          The other one is that He gets in the way of their pursuit.  He's bothersome.  He's an irritant.  The rock of offense, He offends them.  Christ came and He caused them to stumble in their self-righteous pursuit.  He confronted them and they tripped all over the place and He offended them. 

 But whoever believed on Him shall not be ashamed. What does that mean?  Well, a better way to translate that, comparing it with Isaiah 28:16 would be "shall not be fearful."  I like that.  Shall not be fearful.  Whoever believes, whosoever believes, how did this get in Romans 9?  Whosoever believes... Did Paul convert to Methodism at the end of the chapter?  Did he get Arminian?  Whosoever?  That's the balance. Whosoever believes has no reason to fear.  He'll cause some people to stumble.  He'll cause some people to be offended.  And He will be a crushing and a smiting stone in judgment.  But for those who believe on Him, whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed. 

          The issue then is faith.  Do you believe or don't you believe?  That's the issue.  You must decide about Christ.  You're going to run along saying, "I'm okay, I'm okay the way I am, I'm okay."  And Christ is going to get in the middle of your road and going to say, "No you're not.  You're a vile, wretched sinner and all your righteousness adds up to is filthy rags and you can't get to God by your own works."  And He's going to make you stumble in the path.  And He's going to offend you.  And you can just be offended and call it all foolishness and try to get around it and pursue it and then He's going to be a smiting stone, the Bible says, in judgment. Or, you can say, "Hey, I believe it."  And if you believe it you have nothing to what? To fear, no judgment to fear.

          So justification by grace through faith is true. And the unbelief of Israel doesn't in one sense violate God's promise, His person, His plan or His prerequisite.  His prerequisite has always been the same. We're saved by Faith. There is a remnant because God chose a remnant. There is a remnant because it is only a few who believe.  And that's the way God knew it would be and that's the way He planned it to be and that's the way it works out, so it doesn't do away with the truth of the gospel. 


  1.  You can pursue God, without finding God if it is done in the wrong way and not by faith, but by works.
  2.  God has not abandoned Israel even though only a remnant are saved
  3.  The church is like Israel, there are only really a few, a remnant that are truly saved




  1. Not of Jews only, as foretold by Hosea (24-26)

24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

God’s plan always was for Gentiles to be saved.

Isa 11:10, Isa 42:1, Isa 42:6, Isa 49:6 Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'"

Isa 60:3, Ro 3:29

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."

 So here is Hosea, he marries a woman, she becomes a prostitute. She gives him three kids, one named "scattered," the other named "not pitied," and the other named "not My people."  Now what do those names have reference to?  God's attitude toward adulterous Israel.  The children of adulterous Israel are scattered and not pitied and not the people of God.  That's what it's saying.  They are not any longer My people.  They're not My people.  So Israel was not God's people.  The relationship was severed, even in the time of Hosea.  And Hosea 2:23 just simply points that out.  They're not My people, not My beloved.

 In Hosea 2 God is going to bring them back. 

Now when you read in verse 25 of Romans 9, "I will call them My people who were not My people and call her beloved who was not beloved," you know what he's talking about, don't you?  He's talking about Israel.  There's no other way to explain it.  He has to be talking about Israel because that's who Hosea is talking about. Now when you read in verse 25 of Romans 9, "I will call them My people who were not My people and call her beloved who was not beloved," He's talking about Israel.  There's no other way to explain it.  He has to be talking about Israel because that's who Hosea is talking about.

Jer 30:10 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, And no one shall make him afraid.

Isa 41:13; 43:5; 44:2; Jer 3:18; 46:27-28

when Hosea wrote, that had an immediate historical fulfillment, didn't it?  As the people were severed from God, and carried off into captivity from which eventually God brought back the southern kingdom and a remnant of the northern kingdom.  So the prophecy was historically fulfilled in the restoration after the Babylonian captivity.  But that was only the first and historical fulfillment.  There was yet a future prophetic perspective.  And Paul here identifies it with the unbelief of the Jews during the time of Christ.  He says, "Look, we are not surprised now when we see Jewish unbelief and we see them separating themselves from God and we see them denying the gospel. We are not surprised now when they enter into unbelief and sever themselves from God.  Because Hosea said that that's the kind of people they were.  And Hosea saw it in the immediate sense and the Spirit of God saw in the very words He gave to Hosea the future sense."

 So the Holy Spirit applies through Paul what Hosea saw historically to the time of Christ.  And the Israel of Christ is also a prostitute, also a harlot who has abandoned God and forsaken God.  And the truth was in 70 A.D. what happened to them?  Scattered, not pitied and not My people. The whole historical scene took place again at the devastation of Jerusalem when the Jews were scattered.  And have they suffered?  Have they suffered?  It's as if God does not pity them, isn't it?  They're not His people for this period of time.

And so when we read the passage in Hosea then, we say yes, God anticipated the unbelief of Israel both in Hosea's time and here the Holy Spirit tells us even in the time of the apostle Paul, the time of Christ. So the unbelief of Israel doesn't violate God's plan, it does what? It fits it.  It's a tremendous thing.  It fits God's plan.  Israel is not now the people of God. They are a not pitied people.  They are a scattered people.

No it's not permanent, look back at verse 25 again and see what it says.  "I will call them My people who were not My people and her beloved who was not beloved."  It even refers to the time of restoration, doesn't it?  It even refers to the time when they'll be called back.  Israel is not now the people of God but they will be.  Look at chapter 11 verse 1.  "I say then, hath God cast away His people?"  I mean, is this permanent?  "God forbid."  Verse 2: "God hath not cast away His people."  Look at verse 26 in the same chapter.  "And so all Israel shall be (What?) saved."  And verse 27 says, "For this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins."

 In other words, those who are not now a people will become a people.  Those who are not now beloved will become beloved.  But the point of the text is just to show you that for the time we are not surprised at the unbelief of Israel.  We saw it historically.  And that historical unbelief became prophetic of the unbelief that exists since the time of Christ until their belief comes during the time of the tribulation prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  So we're in the time when Israel fulfills the prophecy of Hosea.  They are a scattered, not pitied, not My people.

Now Peter refers to this same idea, this same concept in 1 Peter 2:10.  He refers to it indirectly and identifies it with the church.  And that's kind of an interesting thing.  I don't think he directly quotes Hosea, in my opinion.  I think he alludes to the same concept only in this case it's the church.  Now listen to what I say.  Because we also were a scattered, unpitied people who were not the people of God when we were saved, right?  That's right.  So Peter applies the same principle to us, for Gentiles outside the covenant are a scattered, unpitied people without a relationship to God.

How can Peter take something clearly referring to Israel and apply it to the church?"  Very simple, are you ready for this?  When Israel becomes scattered, unpitied and has no relationship to God, they're just like the Gentiles, right?  They're just like the Gentiles, no difference.  Jew and Gentile in unbelief are equally not God's people, are equally not pitied by God in a special covenantal way, are equally scattered and unsaved.  And so Peter sees the general truth of the state of Israel as a general truth also true of the Gentiles.

  So, Hosea directly applies the prophecy historically in his time.  Paul directly applies the prophecy in his time.  And Peter indirectly associates the concept with the identification of the church as a no people become the people of 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 just notice in verse 25 that there's a beautiful set of terminologies, "My people, My people, My beloved," and the end of verse 26, "sons of the living God."  Beautiful terms.  The Lord's going to bring those people back.  Now Paul while he's in Hosea comes to another verse and quotes it in verse 26, "It shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not My people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God."  Now he got that out of chapter 1 verse 9 of Hosea where it says, "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea which cannot be measured nor numbered, it will come to pass in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, it shall be said to them, You are the sons of the living God."

          It's kind of interesting because he simply paraphrases Hosea 2:23 but he does a direct quote of Hosea 1:9.  It's almost verbatim quote. And again this text affirms the same thing.  Look at verse 26 of Romans 9 "It will come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not My people."  Where was that place?  Where was it said to them, "You're not My people?"  Every place, they were scattered.  "In that place it will be said to them, You are the sons of the living God."  In other words, you who were scattered will be re-gathered, Hosea 1:9 says.  And that happened historically.  After the captivities God gathered His people back from the lands of the Gentiles. They were re-gathered to be called again the sons of the living God.  And that, by the way, is a title that stands in opposition to sons of idols, sons of dead gods, sons of no gods, sons of dumb gods that can't talk and deaf gods that can't hear and blind gods that can't see.  We are sons of the living God. It's such a great phrase, isn't it?  Not some dumb idol.

          So please note that the use of Hosea's prophecies is not particularly to emphasize Israel's restoration, though that appears in the prophecies that He'll call them back to be His people, His beloved sons of the living God.  The particular point in using the prophecies is to show that a future restoration of Israel demands a falling of Israel, right?  You don't have to restore what hasn't been lost.  And the point is that Paul is saying we're not shocked by Israel's unbelief, quite the contrary.  We expected it because God promised their restoration from that unbelief.  So when you look at the gospel being presented and you ask yourself the question as I have been asked by Jewish people, if your gospel is true, why didn't the Jews believe it?  I say it was planned in the the plan of God that the Jews would have to be restored from unbelief so we're not surprised they've entered into unbelief from which they'll be restored.

          Have they gone into that unbelief and become a scattered, not pitied people without a relationship to God except for a few?  Is that true?  Then if we've seen that come to pass, what else must we see come to pass?  Their restoration.  And I fear that many Bible students are willing to see Israel enter into the prophesied unbelief but refuse to let Israel be restored.  And you can't pick prophecy apart like that.

          But only a remnant of Israel, as foretold by Isaiah (27-29)



Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

 The rightness of God’s choice

God's right to choose the objects of His mercy and His wrath (19-23)

Paul replies with a parable about the potter, borrowed from Jer. 18:1–6. God is the Potter, and the nations of the world (and their leaders) are the vessels. Some are vessels of wrath that God patiently endures until their time of destruction.

Ge 15:15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."). Others are vessels of mercy that reveal His glory. Paul then quotes Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that God promised to call a “people” from among the Gentiles, a people to be called “children of the living God.” This is the church (see 1 Peter 2:9–10). He also quotes Isa. 10:22–23, showing that a remnant of Jews would also be saved (see Isa. 1:9). In other words, God’s purpose in election makes it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to be saved by grace. Neither Jew nor Gentile could be saved any way other than by the grace of God.[1]

19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

Paul posed the question in this verse and then answered it in the verses that follow.

John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"

In other words, it is blasphemous even to question, not to mention deny, God’s right to hold men accountable when they are captives of His sovereign will.[1]

In the first place, it is presumptuous for human beings, the objects of divine judgment, to sit in judgment on their Judge. Judging is God's prerogative, not ours. Creatures have no right to complain about their Creator's behavior.

It is obvious from Paul’s wording that the ones who might be asking such questions would not be seeking God’s truth but rather self- justification. Attempting to excuse their own unbelief, sinfulness, ignorance, and spiritual rebellion, they would be apt to accuse God of injustice.

But because human understanding is so limited, even sincere questions about God’s sovereign election and predestination ultimately must go unanswered. As already noted, it is one of the many truths about God that we must accept by faith, simply because He has revealed it in His Word.[1]

  1. Man and God. The first contrast is more apparent in the Greek text than in English, for the verse begins with the words “O man” and ends with the words “the God.” Yet it is apparent enough in English. You and I are mere men and women set over against the God who made not only us but all things. It is ludicrous for creatures as small, ignorant, impotent, and sinful as we are to question the propriety of God’s moral acts. We may not understand what God is doing in any particular case. In fact, most of the time we will not, because ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). We can ask God to explain what He is doing, if He will. But for us to suggest that he is wrong in what he does is patently absurd.
  2. What is formed and he who formed it. The contrast between man and God, the first, stresses the insignificance of one and the greatness of the other. This second contrast brings in another matter, namely, that we are mere creatures—God is the Creator—and therefore everything we are and have comes from him, including even our ability to ask such questions.

Robert Haldane is particularly wise in the way he deals with this matter. “Any wisdom the creature possesses must have been received from the Creator; and if the Creator has the power of forming rational beings, must he not himself be infinite in wisdom? And does it not insult the Creator to pretend to find imperfection in his proceedings? … The reason and discernment between right and wrong which he [man] possesses is the gift of God; it must, then, be the greatest abuse of these faculties to employ them to question the conduct of him who gave them.”

Once again, we must stress that “Paul does not here speak of the right of God over his creatures as creatures, but as sinful creatures, as he himself clearly intimates in the next verses.”[1]

Men are not lost because they are hardened; they are hardened because they are lost; they are lost because they are sinners.

21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Who are we to argue with God? This is a logical argument. God is the Potter and we are the clay. God is wiser than we are and we are foolish to question His will or to resist it. (The reference here is to Isa. 45:9.) To be sure, the clay has no life and is passive in the potter’s hand. We have feelings, intellect, and willpower, and we can resist Him if we choose. (See Jer. 18 where this thought is developed.)

But it is God who determines whether a man will be a Moses or a Pharaoh. Neither Moses, nor Pharaoh, nor anyone else, could choose his parents, his genetic structure, or his time and place of birth. We have to believe that these matters are in the hands of God.

However, this does not excuse us from responsibility. Pharaoh had great opportunities to learn about the true God and trust Him, and yet he chose to rebel. Paul did not develop this aspect of truth because his theme was divine sovereignty, not human responsibility. The one does not deny the other, even though our finite minds may not fully grasp them both.

The illustration in this verse clarifies the inappropriateness of this critical attitude. Clearly Israel is in view as the vessel in the illustration (cf. Isa. 29:16; Jer. 18:6). Israel had no right to criticize God for shaping her for a particular purpose of His own choosing. Really, Israel had nothing to complain about since God had formed her for an honorable use. Obviously, the same is true of individuals.

The Reason for God’s choice

 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

God has every right to act gloriously in such judgment, but He has, by His mercy, endured with much patience a world of sinners. He has endured their unbelief, rejection, hatred, blasphemy, and iniquity, while patiently allowing time for repentance (cf. Ps 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

Ex 34:6-7; Nu 14:18; De 5:10; Ne 9:17; Ps 86:15; Jer 32:18; 2 Pet. 3:9).[1]

Ezekiel 18:1-6 deal with the nation Israel as do all the other passages related to this verse

Isa 29:16 Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?

Isa 45:9 "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?

Isa 64:8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. 9 Do not be furious, O LORD, Nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look-we all are Your people!

Eze 18:23 "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

People prepare themselves for destruction by pursuing sin (ch. 1; cf. Matt. 7:13; 1 Thess. 2:15-16; 2 Thess. 2:3;

Php 3:18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things.).

Passive verb in 22 and active in verse 23 which means God does the action on salvation but not the lostness in verse 22

Paul had in mind those in Israel who had opposed the gospel in his day. God was patient and merciful with them (cf. 2:3-4; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 2 Pet. 3:9).

God has His purposes (vv. 22–24). We must never think that God enjoyed watching a tyrant like Pharaoh. He endured it. God said to Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people … and have heard their cry … for I know their sorrows” (Ex. 3:7).

The fact that God was long-suffering indicates that He gave Pharaoh opportunities to be saved. The word “fitted” in Romans 9:22 does not suggest that God made Pharaoh a “vessel of wrath.” So, it should read: “fitted himself for destruction.” God prepares men for glory (Rom. 9:23), but sinners prepare themselves for judgment. In Moses and Israel God revealed the riches of His mercy; in Pharaoh and Egypt He revealed His power and wrath. Since neither deserved any mercy, God cannot be charged with injustice.

Ultimately, of course, God’s purpose was to form His church from both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24). Believers today are, by God’s grace, “vessels of mercy” which He is preparing for glory, a truth that reminds us of Romans 8:29–30.[1]

The Results from God’s Sovereign choice

23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

Ex 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.

Those who believe the gospel are those in whom God will display the riches of His glory, not His wrath.

These vessels include both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1:16; 2:10-11; 3:22).

God allowed sin to enter the world not only to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known but also to demonstrate the riches of His glory by bestowing His grace upon vessels of mercy (cf.  Eph 2:6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,).

These are people, which He prepared beforehand for glory. In this instance, the Greek verb rendered prepared is in the active voice, and the subject doing the action is specifically God (He). The great work God did in saving us puts His glory on display before all angels and all men (cf. Rev. 5:9–14).[1]

Believers are saved without any merit or work of their own, in order that God may have a means of displaying His glory, which is seen in the grace, the mercy, the compassion, and the forgiveness that He alone grants to those who come to Christ.[1]

Men fit themselves for hell; but it is God that fits men for heaven."

      2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.[1]


  1. Do we have a right to question God’s ways?

    1. Habakkuk is the doubting Thomas of the OT and asks God so many questions
    2. Is the question sincere or insincere? Insincere questions are sin
  2. Is man truly free if God still sovereign?
  3. What is the process whereby someone develops a hard heart?
    • Sin is the reason we harden our hearts

Rule and reign of Christ in 1Th 2:10-12 God sends a deluding influence



Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.


The question of fairness arises whenever someone makes a choice to favor one person or group over another. Paul dealt with the justice of God in doing what He did in this section.

Paul reverts to the diatribe style, with its question-and-answer format and references to a dialogue partner, that he has utilized earlier in the letter (see 2:1—3:8; 3:27-31; 6—7)."

 Salvation is only possible only through His Mercy (14-16)

“God is unjust if He chooses one and leaves another!” ignorant people often say. But the purpose of God goes beyond justice; for if God did only what was just, He would have to condemn all of us! Paul uses Moses (Ex. 33:19) and Pharaoh (Ex. 9:16) as proof that God can do what He wishes in dispensing His grace and mercy.

Nobody deserves God’s mercy, and nobody can condemn God for His choice of Israel or His bypassing of other nations.[1]

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!

The apostle first flatly denied the charge that God is unjust. God cannot be unjust because He is God

As soon as Paul asks the question, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust?” he answers by an emphatic denial: “Not at all!” It is the strongest denial he can muster. The King James Bible has “God forbid!”[1]

 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."

Paul quoted Exodus 33:19 to show that God’s mercy and compassion are extended according to God’s will and not man’s will. All of us deserve condemnation—not mercy.

The reference in Exodus 33 deals with Israel’s idolatry that occurred in chapter 32 while Moses was on the mount receiving the Law. The whole nation deserved to be destroyed, yet God killed only 3,000 people—not because they were more wicked or less godly, but purely because of His grace and mercy.[1]

"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."

 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

God is under no obligation to show mercy or extend grace to anyone. If we insist on receiving just treatment from God, what we will get is condemnation (3:23).

  1. Just as Pharaoh was the object of His Wrath (17-18)

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."

God said He raised Pharaoh up. God had mercifully spared Pharaoh up to the moment when He said these words to him, through six plagues and in spite of his consistent opposition to God. God did not mean that He had created Pharaoh and allowed him to sit on Egypt's throne, though He had done that too. This is clear from Exodus 9:16, which Paul quoted.

The NASB translation of raised you up makes this clear by translating Exodus 9:16, ". . . for this cause I have allowed you to remain." Pharaoh deserved death for his opposition and disrespect. However, God would not take his life in the remaining plagues so his continuing opposition and God's victory over him would result in greater glory for God (cf. Jos 9:9 So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt;

Ps 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself. Here is another example similar to the one in verse 15 of God not giving people what they deserve but extending mercy to them instead.

Paul then quoted Exodus 9:16, using Pharaoh as an illustration. Moses was a Jew; Pharaoh was a Gentile; yet both were sinners. In fact, both were murderers! Both saw God’s wonders. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. God raised up Pharaoh that He might reveal His glory and power; and He had mercy on Moses that He might use him to deliver the people of Israel. Pharaoh was a ruler, and Moses was a slave; yet it was Moses who experienced the mercy and compassion of God—because God willed it that way[1]

 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens

This statement summarizes Paul's point. In chapter 1, the apostle had spoken about the way God gives people over to their own evil desires as a form of punishment for their sins. This is how God hardens people's hearts. In Pharaoh's case, we see this working out clearly. God was not unjust because He allowed the hardening process to continue. His justice demanded punishment. Similarly, a person may choose to drink poison or he may choose not to, but if he chooses to drink it, inevitable consequences will follow.

          "Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself."

God's    hardening   does   not,   then,   cause  spiritual insensitivity to the things of God; it maintains people in the state of sin that already characterizes them."357

Before leaving this section, we need to discuss the “hardening” of Pharaoh (Rom. 9:18). This hardening process is referred to at least fifteen times in Exodus 7–14. Sometimes we are told that Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex. 8:15, 19, 32), and other times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27).

             By declaring His Word and revealing His power, God gave Pharaoh opportunity to repent; but instead, Pharaoh resisted God and hardened his heart. The fault lay not with God but Pharaoh.

The same sunlight that melts the ice also hardens the clay.

             God was not unrighteous in His dealings with Pharaoh because He gave him many opportunities to repent and believe.[1]

God speaks to what was going to happen

Ex 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. (NKJV)

Ex 7:13 And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Ex 7:14 So the LORD said to Moses: "Pharaoh's heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go.

Ex 7:22 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Ex 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Ex 8:19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had said.

Ex 8:32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.

Ex 9:7 Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go.

Ex 9:12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

Ex 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants.

Ex 9:35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

 Ex 10:1 Now the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him,

Ex 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.

Ex 10:27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go.

Ex 14:4 "Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD." And they did so.

Ex 14:8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.

 2Ch 36:13 And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel.

 "Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself."

 "God's hardening, then, is an action that renders a person insensitive to God and his word and that, if not reversed, culminates in eternal damnation."

 God's    hardening does  not,   then,  cause  spiritual insensitivity to the things of God; it maintains people in the state of sin that already characterizes them."

 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 did not mention the fact that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, which Moses stated in Exodus. Paul's point was simply that God can freely and justly extend mercy or not extend mercy to those who deserve His judgment.

 "The reconciliation of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility is beyond our power. The Bible states and emphasizes both, and then leaves them. We shall be wise if we do the same."


  1. It’s foolish to test God’s patience
  2. It is unbelief to doubt the love of God
  3. One day you will stand before God. Do you know Him as your Savior?



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