Romans 9-11

Paul sought to show how the gospel message of justification by faith in Christ should humble the contrary Jewish and Gentile Christians of his day. Humbled, both groups were obligated to recognize God’s grace and be united as a single sacrifice unto the Lord (Rom 12:1-2) singing with one voice of praise to God (Rom 15:1-7). Romans 9-11 plays a significant role in the development of Paul’s argument. Paul expounded specific points in Scripture’s storyline to help his audience understand God’s fairness as a judge, and grace toward all in Christ.

(1) In Rom 9:1-18, Paul recalled God’s sovereignty over the lives of Jacob, Esau, and Pharaoh to argue that God was sovereign over the hardening of the Jews in his day. Paul called his audience to consider that the present situation of the early church was in accord with the sovereignty of God—displayed in the miraculous birth of Isaac and the casting out of Ishmael (Rom 9:6-9; Gen 21:12; 18:10, 14), and the announcement that Esau, the older son of Isaac and Rebekah, would serve the younger (Rom 9:10-13; Gen 25:23; Mal 1:2-3). Further, if during the exodus God displayed His sovereignty over Moses and Pharaoh, what human could question God for allowing things to turn out such that the Gentiles were now also revealed to be objects of God’s mercy (Rom 9:19-24; Exod 33:19; 9:16)?

(2) In Rom 9:23-33, Paul fused phrases from Hosea and Isaiah to argue that only by faith could Jews or Gentiles enjoy God’s righteousness. Hosea described God’s redeeming love for Israel. In Rom 9:25-26, Paul took up the prophet’s words in Hos 2:23 and 1:10, placing Gentiles as the referent of the Lord’s mercy. Paul then employed Isa 10:22-23; 28:22; and 1:9 in Rom 9:27-29 as a historical precedent that God would save only a remnant of the descendants of Jacob. Jews stumbled by rejecting Jesus and pursuing righteousness through works of the law. Paul portrayed Jesus as a rock of salvation for all who believed upon Him for righteousness but a stumbling block for those of Israel clinging to the law for righteousness. The Lord told Isaiah to fear Him even though Israel would stumble over their God (Isa 8:14) and trust death rather than the Lord (Isa 28:16). In Rom 9:33, Paul used Isa 8:14 and 28:16 to portray Jesus as the stone God had established as the Savior of His people.

(3) In Rom 10:1-10, Paul combined phrases from Leviticus and Deuteronomy to contrast righteousness that comes through the law and righteousness attained by faith. In Leviticus 18, Moses warned Israel that when they entered the land, they were to avoid both the practices they had witnessed in Egypt and the idolatry of the nations in Canaan. “Keep these statutes and ordinances,” Moses said, “A person will live if he does them” (Lev 18:5). Paul proposed in Rom 7:10 that though Jews thought the law would bring life, it brought death. For those who believe, Paul countered, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness (Rom 10:4). Righteousness by faith does not require someone to rise to heaven (Deut 9:4; 30:12) or go to the depths of the earth (Deut 30:13), Paul wrote in Rom 10:6-7. They only needed to believe in their heart the message of Christ as Lord and confess that message with their mouth (Rom 10:8-10).

(4) In Rom 10:11-21, Paul wove together verses from the prophets to portray both God’s faithfulness toward those who believe and Israel’s hardness in rejecting righteousness by faith. Paul noted in Rom 10:11-16 that though Isaiah and Joel announced the Lord’s faithfulness to His word of deliverance (Isa 28:16; Joel 2:32)—and sent messengers to Israel (Isa 52:7)—Israel failed to believe (Isa 53:1). So pervasive were the prophets’ messages to Israel that Paul likened them to the way that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:4). Moses predicted that the Lord would use pagan nations to discipline His people for their idolatry (Deut 32:21) and Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would be found by people who were not looking for Him (Isa 65:1). Paul wrote that the Lord had given understanding to the Gentiles, provoking Israel to jealousy as they rejected God’s offer of righteousness by faith (Rom 10:19-20).

(5) In Rom 11:1-10, Paul cited statements from Moses and David to supplement Elijah’s observation that the Lord is able to preserve a remnant in Israel though the nation remains hardened. After Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he became afraid and ran from King Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kgs 19:1-3). Elijah thought he was all alone but the Lord informed Elijah that He had preserved a remnant of 7,000 who had not worshipped Baal (1 Kgs 19:10, 14, 18). Paul wrote that the Lord had preserved a remnant chosen by grace to believe upon Christ for righteousness (Rom 11:3-6) though the nation wandered in darkness just as Moses (Deut 29:4) and David (Ps 69:22-23) had said (Rom 11:8-10).

(6) In Rom 11:26-27, Paul wrote that the new covenant promises would be realized in the chosen remnant of Israel. Paul warned the Gentiles not to boast over their Jewish neighbors because the Lord had hardened Israel for a time. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would send a deliverer to turn away godlessness from Israel (Isa 59:20-21), and Isaiah’s prophecy assured Paul that the Lord would one day awaken Israel to forgiveness of sin in Christ—just as Jeremiah prophesied (Jer 31:31-34).

(7) In Rom 11:34-35, Paul joined phrases from Isaiah, Job, and Jeremiah to present God’s wisdom in judgement of Jews and Gentiles. Paul’s frame of mind at the end of Romans 11 shared points of contact with Isaiah in Isa 40:13. The prophet announced that the days of Israel’s punishment were over; God was going to redeem Israel and shepherd His people. In order to underscore the Lord’s ability to redeem Israel, Isaiah described God’s supremacy over creation. Likewise, the Lord showed Job His wisdom by presenting Job with vignettes of how He ruled creation (Job 41:11). Though fools prophesied to Jeremiah and Judah that the Lord would not display His wrath against their sin, Jeremiah understood that the counsel of the Lord would prevail (Jer 23:18). Paul brought the voices of the prophets and Job together to depict God’s wisdom in salvation history. From God, through God, and to God were all things necessary for sinful Jews and Gentiles to receive God’s righteousness.