Romans Bible Study Lesson 36

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God’s Choice

Romans 9:19—26

Why would Paul need to explain to Israel that God can accomplish His will through anyone He wishes if there was no change in how God was dealing with man? No explanation would be needed if God continued to work through Israel. This shows that God had changed His dealing with man and by careful study we know He revealed this change through Paul. No other apostle explains this change until after it was revealed through Paul. We see this in Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:3—5 3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Although this passage is often used to prove others were given the Mystery as it had been given to Paul, it actually proves otherwise. We know the Mystery was revealed directly to Paul by Jesus Christ in person (Galatians 1:12). Many interpret verse five to say that the Mystery was revealed a little bit in the Old Testament but revealed fully to the apostles and prophets. If I said that people 100 years ago don’t fly to Europe as we do today you would understand that 100 years ago no one flew to Europe. It would never be interpreted that there were a few who flew to Europe. If we apply this same logic this Ephesians passage we can see that verse five means that the Mystery was not revealed in the past. A Mystery revealed would not be a Mystery.

Notice the important distinction Paul makes as to how the holy apostles and prophets were revealed the Mystery. It was through the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Mystery was revealed directly to Paul without input from any person and as Paul revealed it to the apostles and prophets alive at that time, the Holy Spirit revealed to them that Paul’s words were indeed from God. This is exactly what happens when we read the Word of God written by Paul. The Holy Spirit reveals the truths contained in His Word.

God’s Sovereignty (verses 19—21)

The question most likely asked at this point would be: “If God uses me any way He wants to, how can He find fault with me in what I do?” This thinking tries to shift the blame from me to God making it God’s fault for the way I act. This way of thinking was evident in the Garden of Eden when Adam blamed God for giving him the woman who caused him to sin.

The obvious answer is that we are the created beings at God’s mercy and have no right to question our Maker. He has molded and shaped humans and can use us in any way He wishes. The examples in verses 10—17 bear out this principle. If God wants to use one nation over another, so be it. If God wants to use a Gentile over an Israelite, He’s well within His authority to do so. To have a mere man object to God exerting His sovereign control is astounding.

These verses may reference Isaiah 45 where God uses King Cyrus to release Israel from the Babylonian captivity. God used King Nebuchadnezzar to punish Israel and used King Cyrus to liberate them from that punishment. Cyrus was even called God’s anointed even though he was a non-believing Gentile.

Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:

God sovereignly chose King Cyrus to play an important role in fulfilling the prophecy that Israel would be under Babylonian captivity for 70 years. Not only would he be instrumental in freeing Israel but would also be used in rebuilding her cities. King Cyrus is a lump of clay that God decided to use to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 45:9, 11—13 9“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker–An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? 12“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host. 13“I have aroused him in righteousness And I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,” says the LORD of hosts.

Again, this speaks of God freely using people as He wants to. Paul continues to build his case to Israel that God can use any person or nation as He sees fit.

The potter and clay analogy can also be extended to God’s use of a single nation. Jeremiah 18 compares Israel to a lump of clay. The Potter is free to use the same clay for honor or dishonor, to bring the nation down or build it up.

Jeremiah 18:1—6 1The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, 2“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” 3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. 4But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. 5Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 6“Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.

Vessels of mercy and wrath (verses 22—24)

This is another section of Scripture often misinterpreted. It is often used to prove that God created some people for glory (heaven) and some people for wrath (hell). There are definitely two groups represented here and one group will see destruction and the other group glory, but individual salvation is not in view here. There are two groups and each group is predestined to a particular future but individuals are free to choose which group they would like to be a part of. The principle here is that as God can determine the future of nations, He can determine how He treats other groups.

It’s interesting to note that the vessels in verse 22 were prepared and continue to be prepared for destruction (present tense and passive voice) and the vessels in verse 23 were actively prepared for glory by God in the past (aorist tense and active voice). Individuals are born into the vessel of wrath group and remain there until a decision is made to give his or her life to Christ. Those who are not saved remain in the vessels of wrath group while those who are saved are actively transferred into the vessels of mercy group by God.

Keep in mind that Paul is defending God’s sovereignty in how He treats individuals, groups or nations to accomplish His will and purpose. Here God can sovereignly establish the future of those who reject His Son and those who accept His Son. The lesson Paul is trying to teach the Jews is that God has every right to turn his back on Israel as a nation and begin His work with the Gentiles.

Not My people  (verses 25—26)

This is another portion of Scripture almost always misinterpreted. The most common thought is that Paul is speaking of Gentiles having gone from not my people to my people. As you read through Chapters 9, 10 and 11 you must always remember Paul is speaking to believing Israel. The Jews are questioning why God is not working with Israel as expected (according to prophesy). Paul explains that God has changed His program temporarily (the Mystery) and that God is within His sovereign right to do so.

We must interpret this portion of Scripture within context and in terms of how Israel would understand it. If we go back to Hosea 2:23 we can see that God called Israel lo-ammi meaning not my people. This happened during the times when Israel left God and, like a harlot, looked for love in all the wrong places. They rejected God but embraced false gods.

Hosea 1:9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”

Hosea 2:23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

It was during these times of lo-ammi that the Israel’s prophetic clock stoped. These five occasions can be found in the book of Judges:

Judges 3:8        Mesopotamia          8 years Lo-ammi

Judges 3:14      Moab                     18 years Lo-ammi

Judges 4:3        Canaan                 20 years Lo-ammi

Judges 6:1         Midian                    7 years Lo-ammi

Judges 13:1       Philistine             40 years Lo-ammi

Total   93 years

The time period from the exodus to the beginning of the temple is recorded as 480 years in 1 Kings 6:1 while Acts 13:17—22 says it was 573 years. The difference between the two is 93 years. Acts gives us the actual span of years while 1 Kings shows the time that Israel was considered My people. One is man’s time line while the other is God’s.

Israel is now, in this present age of Grace, lo-ammi. The prophetic clock has stopped and God is not currently dealing with Israel as a nation. This explains the pause between weeks 69 and 70 in Daniels prophesy.

Paul is consistent in using this passage from the Old Testament to show Israel that God can sovereignly choose to use Israel or not to use Israel. He can use Israel any way He pleases. This interpretation seems to be in harmony with the context of this chapter and is done in a manner that would have been clearly understood by the Jews in the Roman church.