A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Exhibition of Divine Sovereignty in Election
Paul vindicates the ways of God in rejecting Israel by three lines of argument (one in each chapter): 1. the absolute sovereignty of God (chapter 9); 2. the moral responsibility of man (chapter 10); 3. the final purpose of God (chapter 11).
God has the right to reject Israel if He wants to; He has the right to choose one man and to reject another. If may not sound right, and to most people probably doesn't seem right. But neither how it sounds to men nor seems to their finite comprehension changes the fact. The doctrine of election is hard to receive, but remember that God has a sovereign right over His creatures.
Notice how inevitably the next follows: you bring a man into the presence of the sovereignty of God and election, and he will say, "Well then, man is not responsible. Man is not free. If God chooses one man and rejects another, then man is not free." But Paul says he is! So in that next chapter he lays the whole responsibility upon the Jew's own shoulders. He says the gospel is free - anybody could believe that wanted to. So moral responsibility is emphasized in the tenth chapter.
Confronted with moral responsibility as running parallel with the sovereignty of God, the human mind shifts its charge against God and says, "God is not good. If God is sovereign, if He chooses one man and not another, then God is not good." Paul is going to answer that God IS good. Through this exercise of sovereignty, God is going to work out a mighty purpose, through which He will bring the whole world to a knowledge of the gospel!
Back of it all, God has a purpose. It is not like the old pagan conception of the mills of the gods grinding like machines and devouring men. It is not like the Mohammedan idea of men modeled out of clay - this one for hell, that one for heaven! Back of this sovereign election is a God who loves the world, a God, the mystery of whose will no man knows and perhaps no man will know until the end comes. Paul has chosen here in this eleventh chapter to draw back the curtain and show how God, even in the things which appear to be mysteries is going to work out His holy and divine purpose in the end.
So we are confronted with an amazing and beautiful unfolding of the plan of God: chapter 9 - election; chapter 10 - rejection; chapter 11 - reception.
The absolute sovereignty of God is seen in election.
The moral responsibility of man is seen in rejection.
The final purpose of God is seen in reception - that is, the future reception of Israel back into the will of God.
There you have the three things beautifully set forth in those three chapters.
It is necessary to point out one or two other things before we enter into the study. If you have read this chapter you will have noticed how sorrowful is the tone of it (vv. 1-5). "I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart." But he ends the whole section with a note of rejoicing: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (11:33). This marks an amazing change. As Paul begins his discussion he faces the problem of Jewish unbelief and sees his own brethren going down to the pit! This strikes at everything he has held dear. As he goes on, step by step, the solution of the problem unfolds, and he is brought into the presence of that God who works all things according to the counsel of His will. Paul is led to utter the most wonderful doxology in the Word of God (11: 33-36).
In these three chapters, Paul is writing for the Jews first of all. They may contain things that the Gentile who is out of Christ will reject utterly. For instance, tell the average unbeliever, "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?" The average Gentile will reject that. Take him into the presence of that passage that says that God raised up Pharaoh to show His own glory in the earth, that "God hath mercy on whom He will and He hardeneth whom He will." The average Gentile will reject that, but no orthodox Jew dare reject it, because it is written in his own Scriptures.
Here is our outline for the ninth chapter, as we are dealing with the absolute sovereignty of God as shown forth in election:
1.The problem stated (vv. 1-5). "For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
2. The explanation offered (vv. 16-13). "But it is not as through the word of God had come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel."
3. The objections answered (vv. 14-24). "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? ... Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth His will""
4. The proof given (vv. 25-29). Paul quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures in proof of the statements made.
5. The conclusion drawn (vv. 30-33). "What shall we say then?"
Now we are ready to enter the passage and study it more closely, following the outline suggested.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 60 - "The Problem Stated")