1. There have been two ways of understanding this literary unit’s relationship to chapters 1–8.
  2. It is a totally separate topic, a theological parenthesis
  3. There is a drastic contrast and lack of logical connection between 8:39 and 9:1.
  4. It is directly related to the historical tension in the church at Rome between believing Jews and believing Gentiles. It was possibly related to the growing Gentile leadership of the Church.
  5. There was misunderstanding about Paul’s preaching concerning Israel (and the Law) and his apostleship to the Gentiles (offer of free grace), therefore, he deals with this topic in this section.

But I believe that:

  1. It is the climax and logical conclusion of Paul’s presentation of the gospel.
  2. Paul concludes chapter 8 with the promise of “no separation from the love of God.” What about the unbelief of the covenant people?
  3. Romans 9–11 answers the paradox of the gospel concerning Israel’s unbelief!
  4. Paul has been addressing this very issue all through the letter (cf. 1:3, 16; 3:21, 31 and 4:1ff).
  5. Paul claims that God is true to His Word. What about His OT word to Israel? Are all those promises null and void?[1]

 Romans 9–11 forms a literary unit. It must be interpreted together as a whole. However, there are at least three major subject divisions.

  1. 9:1–29 (focusing on God’s sovereignty)
  2. 9:30–10:21 (focusing on human responsibility)
  3. 11:1–32 (God’s inclusive, eternal, redemptive purpose)

 This section is as much a cry from the heart as a presentation from the mind.  Its passion reminds one of God’s heart breaking over rebellious Israel in Hosea 11:1–4, 8–9.

In many ways the pain and goodness of the Law in chapter 7 are paralleled in chapters 9–10. In both cases Paul’s heart was breaking over the irony of a law from God that brought death instead of life!

This text, like Eph. 1:3–14, deals with the eternal purposes of God for the redemption of humanity. At first it seems to describe God choosing some individuals and rejecting other individuals (supralapsarian Calvinism), however, I think the focus is not on individuals, but on God’s eternal plan of redemption (cf. Gen. 3:15; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; and 13:29).

The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, “The New Testament,” edited by Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Raymond E. Brown, says:

“It is important to realize from the outset that Paul’s perspective is corporate; he is not discussing the responsibility of individuals. If he seems to bring up the question of divine predestination, this has nothing to do with the predestination of individuals to glory” (p. 318)[1]

Related Insights to Chapter 9

  1. What a drastic change of attitude occurs between chapter 8 and chapter 9.
  2. This literary unit (9–11) deals with (1) the basis of salvation, (2) the electing purpose of God, and (3) the faithlessness of unbelieving Israel versus the faithfulness of YHWH!
  3. Chapter 9 is one of the strongest NT passages on God’s sovereignty (i.e. the other is Eph. 1:3–14) while chapter 10 states human free will clearly and repeatedly (cf. “everyone” v. 4; “whosoever” vv. 11, 13; “all” v. 12 {twice}). Paul never tries to reconcile this theological tension. They are both true! Most Bible doctrines are presented in paradoxical or dialectical pairs. Most historically developed theological systems are logical, but they proof-text only one aspect of biblical truth. Both Augustinianism and Calvinism versus semi—Peligianism and Arminianism have elements of truth and error. Biblical tension between doctrines is preferable to a proof-texted, dogmatic, rational, theological system that forces the Bible onto a preconceived interpretive grid!
  4. 9:30–33 is a summary of chapter 9 and the theme of chapter 10.[1]