Tag Archives: human history

Romans 9: Magnifying the God of the Earth

For a class this semester I have to choose a passage from either Romans or Hebrews to study in depth. I wanted a “difficult” passage because those are the most fun for me to study so I chose everyone’s favorite chapter: Romans 9. You read that right. I decided to dive deep into Romans 9 for this project and have already started to love this passage. I wanted to share three things I’ve already seen thus far.

  1. Paul’s imitation of Christ
  2. God’s definition of injustice
  3. God’s sovereignty in human history

Paul’s Imitation of Christ: Romans 9:3 contains some very surprising words: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” To be honest, I’ve always thought this was a little over-the-top. Surely Paul is exaggerating, right? Surely Paul would never even consider being “accursed and cut off” from God, right? But this week I remembered something incredible. The words of Christ on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34; see also Psalm 22:1). Where Paul wished himself accursed and cut off from God, Christ actually was accursed and cut off from God the Father. Paul is merely imitating Christ in his desire to see others come to know the Father. They both desired to share Christ with others so much that they were willing to suffer for it.

God’s definition of injustice: After recalling the story of God choosing to love Jacob and hate Esau before either had been born (Rm. 9:13), the next verse asks this question: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Romans 9:14) When we read this, we assume the “injustice” is that God hated Esau. But, in the context of the passage, this is completely wrong. Look at verses 14-16 and pay attention to the words I have made bold:

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Notice anything? The injustice is not that God hated Esau. The injustice is that God loved Jacob! Think about it for a minute. What is justice? Merriam-Webster defines justice as: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” The key word there is merited: merited rewards or punishments. Justice is giving people exactly what they deserve. Because we’ve already established—in Romans, no less—that everyone has committed rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23) we know that everyone deserves eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Justice would be giving us our merited punishments. Injustice would be giving us grace, forgiveness, love, and eternal life. God’s grace to sinners is the ultimate act of injustice, but He has the right to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. Why? Because He’s God! J

God’s sovereignty in human history: Take a look at this list of historical people in Israel’s history:

  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Rebekah
  • Jacob
  • Esau
  • Moses
  • Pharaoh
  • David
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Malachi
  • Amos
  • Joel
  • Jesus Christ

Believe it or not, all of those people are mentioned, quoted, or alluded to in Romans 9. Just verses 4 & 5 contain all of this: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)” That is a ton of Jewish history and Paul was writing to Jews, which makes me think that he understood that they would understand many of these references.

So what’s my point? My point is that Romans 9 rapidly and succinctly traces almost all of Jewish history from Abraham to Jesus. In the context of a discussion about God’s sovereignty, and when we think about God’s sovereignty, I think it’s important to remember that God has been around a lot longer than us and He has guided all of human history for His purposes. If we view human history as being guided by God, we suddenly get a much larger view of who God is and how His purposes span centuries and even millennia.

Romans 9 is a humbling passage and I look forward to sitting under it, learning from it, and growing as a result.