Romans Chapter Nine
1. Paul’s Sorrow Over Unbelieving Israel (Romans 9:1-5)
Augustine: "Hence, as far as concerns us, who are not able to distinguish those who are predestinated from those who are not, we ought on this very account to will all men to be saved ... It belongs to God, however, to make that rebuke useful to them whom He Himself has foreknown and predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son" (On Rebuke & Grace, ch. 49).
Calvin on Romans 9:2: "... the obedience we render to God's providence does not prevent us from grieving at the destruction of lost men, though we know that they are thus doomed by the just judgment of God; for the same mind is capable of being influenced by these two feelings: that when it looks to God it can willingly bear the ruin of those whom he has decreed to destroy; and that when it turns its thoughts to men, it condoles with their evils. They are then much deceived, who say that godly men ought to have apathy and insensibility, lest they should resist the decree of God."
Herman Hoeksema on Romans 9:3: "What the apostle means is: were I placed before the alternative that my brethren according to the flesh be saved, or I; were I permitted to choose between their salvation and my own, could I effect their salvation by my being accursed, I could indeed wish to be accursed from Christ in their behalf ... Without wishing to place ourselves on a par with the apostle, we may safely say that, in a degree, we can often repeat these words after him. Just imagine a parent who experiences the grief of seeing one or more of his children walk the way of sin and destruction. Just imagine a pastor, who, in the course of years becomes attached to his flock and earnestly desires their salvation, but who beholds many of them that are not the objects of God's electing love. And what is true of our own flesh and blood in the narrowest sense of the word and of the Church of Christ in the world in general can be applied to mankind as a whole. Out of one blood God has made the whole of the human race, and they are, according to the flesh, all our brethren. And we can understand a little, at least, of the attitude of the apostle when he speaks of the great heaviness that burdens his soul and says that he could wish to be accursed from Christ for his kinsmen according to the flesh. And in as far as we could wish in our present flesh and blood, we could indeed desire all men to be saved."
2. They are Not All Israel Which are of Israel (Romans 9:6-9)
Calvin on the organic idea of the Church: "We must at the same time bear in mind what I have reminded you of elsewhere - that the Prophet directs his discourse one while to the faithful only, who were then few in number, and that at another time he addresses the multitude indiscriminately; and so when our Prophet threatens, he regards the whole body of the people; but when he proclaims the favour of God, it is the same as though he turned his eyes towards the faithful only, and gathered them into a place by themselves. As for instance, when a few among a people are really wise, and the whole multitude unite in hastening their own ruin, he who has an address to make will make a distinction between the vast multitude and the few; he will severely reprove those who are thus foolish, and live for their own misery; and he will afterwards shape his discourse so as to suit those with whom he has not so much fault to find. Thus also the Lord changes his discourse; for at one time he addresses the ungodly, and at another he turns to the elect, who were but a remnant. So the Prophet has hitherto spoken by reproofs and threatenings, for he addressed the whole body of the people; but now he collects, as I have said, the remnant as it were by themselves, and sets before them the hope of pardon and of salvation" (Comm. on Zephaniah 3:9).
Calvin on the organic idea of the Church: "If one objects and says, that this statement militates against many others which we have observed, the answer is easy, and the solution has already been adduced in another place, and I shall now only touch on it briefly. When God distinctly denounces ruin on the people, the body of the people is had in view; and in this body there was then no integrity. Inasmuch, then, as all the Israelites had become corrupt, had departed from the worship and fear of God, and from all piety and righteousness, and had abandoned themselves to all kinds of wickedness, the Prophet declares that they were to perish without any exception. But when he confines the vengeance of God, or moderates it, he has respect to a very small number; for, as it has been already stated, corruption had never so prevailed among the people, but that some seed remained. Hence, when the Prophet has in view the elect of God, he applies then these consolations, by which he mitigates their terror, that they might understand that God, even in his extreme rigour, would be propitious to them. Such is the way to account for this passage" (Comm. on Hosea 11:8-9).
3. Elect Jacob & Reprobate Esau (Romans 9:10-13)
John Murray: "... the differentiation which belongs to Israel as a whole in virtue of the theocratic election does not meet the question the apostle encounters in this whole passage, namely, the unbelief of the mass of ethnic Israel. There must be another factor at work which will obviate the inference that the word of God has come to nought. This factor is found in the particularity of election, that is, in a more specific and determinative election than is exemplified in the generic election of Israel as a people."
D. M. Lloyd-Jones on "that the purpose of God according to election might stand" (Rom. 9:11): "That is it! It is the purpose of God; He is carrying it out Himself, nothing can frustrate it. And God, he says here, does it in this way through this process of election and selection, in order that it may stand, that it may never fall" (Romans 9, p. 130).
4. God's Hatred of Esau (Romans 9:13)
Augustine: "He who said, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,' loved Jacob of His undeserved grace, and hated Esau of His deserved judgment" (Enchiridion, xcviii).
Martin Luther: "the love and hate of God towards men is immutable and eternal, existing, not merely before there was any merit or work of 'free-will,' but before the world was made; [so] all things take place in us of necessity, according as He has from eternity loved or not loved ... faith and unbelief come to us by no work of our own, but through the love and hatred of God" (The Bondage of the Will, pp. 226, 228-229).
Calvin "the reprobate are hateful to God, and with very good reason. For, deprived of his Spirit, they can bring forth nothing but reason for cursing" (Institutes 3.24.17).
Jerome Zanchius: "When hatred is ascribed to God, it implies (1) a negation of benevolence, or a resolution not to have mercy on such and such men, nor to endue them with any of those graces which stand connected with eternal life. So, 'Esau have I hated' (Rom. 9), i.e., 'I did, from all eternity, determine within Myself not to have mercy on him.' The sole cause of which awful negation is not merely the unworthiness of the persons hated, but the sovereignty and freedom of the Divine will. (2) It denotes displeasure and dislike, for sinners who are not interested in Christ cannot but be infinitely displeasing to and loathsome in the sight of eternal purity. (3) It signifies a positive will to punish and destroy the reprobate for their sins, of which will, the infliction of misery upon them hereafter, is but the necessary effect and actual execution" (Absolute Predestination, p. 44).
Francis Turretin: "For as he who loves a person or thing wishes well and, if he can, does well to it, so true hatred and abhorrence cannot exist without drawing after them the removal and destruction of the contrary" (Elenctic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 237-238).
Robert Haldane: "Nothing can more clearly manifest the strong opposition of the human mind to the doctrine of the Divine sovereignty, than the violence which human ingenuity has employed to wrest the -expression, 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.' By many this has been explained, 'Esau have I loved less.' But Esau was not the object of any degree of the Divine love ... If God's love to Jacob was real literal love, God's hatred to Esau must be real literal hatred. It might as well be said that the phrase, 'Jacob have I loved,' does not signify that God really loved Jacob, but that to love here signifies only to hate less, and that all that is meant by the - expression, is that God hated Jacob less than he hated Esau. If every man’s own mind is a sufficient security against concluding the meaning to be, 'Jacob have I hated less,' his judgment ought to be a security against the equally unwarrantable meaning, 'Esau have I loved less' ... hardening [is] a proof of hatred" (Romans, pp. 456, 457).
A. W. Pink: "'Thou hatest all workers of iniquity -- not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, 'Thou hatest all workers of iniquity' (Ps. 5:5)! 'God is angry with the wicked every day.' 'He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God' --- not 'shall abide,' but even now --- 'abideth on him' (Ps. 5:5; 8:11; John 3:36). Can God 'love' the one on whom His 'wrath' abides? Again; is it not evident that the words 'The love of God which is in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated' (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? ... Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change --- He is 'without variableness or shadow of turning!’" (The Sovereignty of God, p. 248).
John Murray: "[Divine hatred can] scarcely be reduced to that of not loving or loving less ... the evidence would require, to say the least, the thought of disfavour, disapprobation, displeasure. There is also a vehement quality that may not be discounted ... We are compelled, therefore, to find in this word a declaration of the sovereign counsel of God as it is concerned with the ultimate destinies of men" (Romans, vol. 2, pp. 22, 24).
Homer C. Hoeksema: "All history, in which vessels unto honor or unto dishonor are formed, is the revelation and realization of the counsel of God according to which He loved Jacob and all His elect people, but hated Esau and all the reprobate."
James Montgomery Boice: "although hatred in God is of a different character than hatred in sinful human beings --- his is a holy hatred --- hate in God nevertheless does imply disapproval ... [Esau] was the object of [God's] displeasure ... Since the selection involved in the words love and hate was made before either of the children was born, the words must involve a double predestination in which, on the one hand, Jacob was destined to salvation and, on the other hand, Esau was destined to be passed over and thus to perish" (Romans, vol. 3, p. 1062).
D. A. Carson: "Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner, his wrath is on the liar, and so forth" (The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, p. 79).
5. Is God's Election Unrighteous? (Romans 9:14-16)
Herman Hoeksema: "A man wills because God shows him mercy. God does not show mercy because a man wills. But when God shows mercy to a man, the result is that he wills, he runs. His willing is not the cause, but the effect. God’s mercy is first. And although it is true that one cannot enter into the kingdom of God unless he wills, the cause of this willing is not in man, but in God. God’s mercy is sovereign." (Righteous By Faith Alone, p. 401).
6. Is God's Reprobation Unrighteous? (Romans 9:17-18)
John Calvin on hardening: "But the word hardens, when applied to God in Scripture, means not only permission, (as some washy moderators would have it,) but also the operation of the wrath of God: for all those external things, which lead to the blinding of the reprobate, are the instruments of his wrath; and Satan himself, who works inwardly with great power, is so far his minister, that he acts not, but by his command ... Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will; and Solomon teaches us the same thing,---that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end---that they may perish. (Prov. 16:4.)"
A.W. Pink on Pharoah: "It is clear that God raised up Pharaoh for this very end---to 'cut him off,' which in the language of the New Testament means 'destroyed.' God never does anything without a previous design. In giving him being, in preserving him through infancy and childhood, in raising him to the throne of Egypt, God had one end in view" (Sovereignty of God, p. 107).
John Piper on Romans 9: "There is a correspondence between 'Jacob I loved and Esau I hated' (9:13), on the one hand, and 'He has mercy on whom he wills and he hardens whom he wills' (9:18), on the other hand ... the implication that must then follow is that God's act of hardening is just as unconditional as the loving and hating of 9:13, which God determined 'before they were born or had done anything good or evil.'"
7. The Ultimate Theodicy (Romans 9:19-24)
Herman Hoeksema: "The vessels of wrath are so constituted that their entire make-up and design and institution serves the purpose of reaching that end of destruction. If we abandon the figure of the vessel, the meaning is that there are men so instituted as to their personality, their power and talents, their position in the world and their place in the whole of the works of God, that everything tends to their destruction, serves the purpose of leading them, not to temporal destruction, but to eternal desolation. Unto this they are fitted" (God's Eternal Good Pleasure, p. 93).
D. M. Lloyd-Jones: "'What if God, willing to shew his wrath ...' Now this word 'willing'... really means 'wishing', and it is even stronger than that; it could be translated 'What if God inclined to ...' And then even that is not strong enough because it means ‘a deep and a strong desire’ ... 'His holy will disposes Him not to leave unmanifested His wrath and His power.' That is a very good way of putting it. It is a paraphrase but it does bring out the meaning: 'Notwithstanding that His holy will disposes Him.' And it disposes Him very strongly. God, with this whole disposition of His nature, [wills to show his wrath upon the reprobate] ..." (Romans 9, p. 211).
J. M. Boice: "Every person who has ever lived or will ever live must glorify God, either actively or passively, either willingly or unwillingly, either in heaven or in hell. You will glorify God. Either you will glorify him as the object of his mercy and glory, which will be seen in you. Or you will glorify him in your rebellion and unbelief by being made the object of his wrath and power at the final judgment" (Romans, vol 3, p. 1108).