Keeping the law cannot save us—only Jesus can.
Romans 9:31-32a “…but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if were based on works.”
It is completely antithetical in the mind of man to think that there is a wrong way to have fellowship with God, especially in today’s culture. How often have we heard that there are many paths to God and as long as a person is seeking Him, they will eventually find Him? However, in Romans 9:31 Paul is writing that there is a wrong way to try to have right standing with God. Even though Paul is addressing his Jewish brothers and sisters here, he is really speaking to the nature of all of mankind. We naturally want to earn our way to God, to find Him and His eternity by our merit, and one of the reasons we think we can do that is because we underestimate our sin. We think that underneath it all we’re basically good people and that the sins we commit surely won’t be the thing that keeps us out of fellowship with God. We dismiss the immensity of His holiness and the enormity of our sinfulness and then try to work our way to Him according to whatever path seems appropriate. This will never work. Only by grace are we saved through faith and that not of ourselves so that none of us can boast. (Ephesians 2:8) Once again, it is all of and for God.
Study/Meditation: Why does simply keeping the law not save us? Hint: What does God require for salvation? (Matthew 5:48)
*Father, forgive me for the times I try to dismiss the enormity of my sin and look to my own actions for right standing with You. You are forever holy and only Jesus is able to save me. Amen.
Salvation comes by way of God’s effectual call which leads to the attainment of righteousness through faith in Christ. It is all of God.
Romans 9:30 “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith.”
Salvation is all of and for God. There is no disputing this fact, especially according to the Apostle Paul. However, more must occur so that sinful man may stand before the holy and righteous Judge, and that “more” is where man’s responsibility comes into play. The truth is that man cannot come to God unless he has been called by Him, but that call isn’t enough to stand in God’s presence. No, man must be righteous to do so, and we know that Paul already reminded us in Romans 3:10 that “None is righteous, no, not one.” How do we stand before God as righteous when no one is righteous? We do so by faith in a righteousness outside of ourselves. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that the Gentiles “earned” righteousness; he says they “attained” righteousness “by faith.” We must place our faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ in order that His righteousness be imputed to us. We cannot earn it or work for it. We are called to it and then we place our faith in it and only in it—“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:22)
Study/Meditation: Can a person come to faith in the work of Jesus Christ without first being under God’s effectual call? Why or why not? (Read Romans 8:29-30)
*Father, thank You for calling me to You and giving me the righteousness necessary to stand before You. Your work is complete and perfect. Amen.
Only God can save. Without His call, we are doomed to our own natures.
Romans 9:29 “And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.’”
Paul is quoting from the prophet Isaiah in verse 29 to illustrate his point that election to salvation is all of God. If left to ourselves without God, we would have no choice apart from the evil in our hearts. Sodom and Gomorrah were not Jewish cities. They were pagan Gentile cities and well-known for being the most detestable and sinful cities in the known world. Think of what Isaiah was saying. His prediction was that were it not for God’s intervention in grace, the favored remnant of Israel would end up just like the most godless, debase peoples on the planet. Their ethnicity wouldn’t save them. Their ceremonies and rituals wouldn’t save them. Their heritage wouldn’t save them. Only God could and only God did. None of that can save us either. If left to ourselves without God’s calling us to Himself, we would never, could never choose Him. Our eternal security in salvation is completely of God and about God. It always has been.
Study/Meditation: Apply what Paul wrote in Romans 7:18-20 to what he wrote in 9:29. What is Paul telling us in the 7th chapter that he is reiterating here in the 9th?
*Father, my salvation is all of You and Your mercy. Help me see today how I can give You that glory in my words and actions. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 9:14-29
Romans 9:27-28 “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.’”
Unfortunately, many have come to think that God’s obligation is to save, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible teaches that God’s obligation is to serve His justice. Therefore, His purposes in salvation show His immeasurable mercy. In verse 24 that mercy is shown when He chose some from the Gentiles, a people who had historically rejected Him and His people, to receive eternal life. Now in verses 27-28 His mercy extends to a remnant of Jews, who had rejected His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Messiah. In truth, all of Israel, as well as all of the Gentiles, deserved judgment. Likewise today we all deserve judgment. But God mercifully calls some to Him, both Jew and Gentile, “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call.” (Romans 9:11) God is not obliged to save any of us, but He chooses to do so. That is mercy.
Study/Meditation: What does it mean that God’s obligation is to justice and not salvation? What does that tell you about His character and His mercy?
*Father, You are holy and just in all Your ways. Thank You for choosing a remnant of sinners who deserve only judgment to instead receive Your rich mercy. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 9:14-29
Romans 9:25-26 “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’’”
God’s justice is always just, and against the backdrop of His justice, His mercy is always more than we can imagine. It is most certainly more than we deserve. In quoting Hosea at this point in his argument, Paul is illustrating to his readers that if God could make His own people not His and then bring them back into covenant with Him, then He can certainly bring another people who was not His now into this same covenant with Him. And for us who are Gentiles, the mercy is astounding. The Gentiles definitely deserved judgment. They had persecuted God’s chosen people, denying the one, true Living God. It was from these people that we descend, and God has chosen to made us part of “His people.” His judgment is always just, but His mercy is always more than we deserve.
Study/Meditation: How does Paul’s point here illustrate that God has one chosen people, not two? How does this also illustrate His mercy against the backdrop of His judgment?
*Father, You are indeed merciful beyond measure. Thank You for bringing me into Your covenant people. Amen.
Focal Passage: Romans 9:14-29
Romans 9:24 “…(vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—) even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
Paul is now returning to the point he made earlier in the chapter in verse 6 when he said that not all of Israel belong to Israel and not all of Abraham’s descendants are actually his children. He is doing so once again to point to God’s supreme and overriding sovereignty as compared to anything in or about mankind. He makes the point again in verse 24 but adds that God’s chosen include some but not all of the Jews, which was what they had thought, and many of the Gentiles, which was a surprise to a lot of his readers. He will then go on in the next couple of verses giving Old Testament proof of his statement. Paul’s point, however, continues to be summed up in the phrase, “even us whom he has called.” God has called His children according to His purposes (9:11), and His call depends entirely on His choice and His election, not on heritage or nationality or works. It is all of and for God.
Study/Meditation: Read John 8:34-59. How does this incident with Jesus and the Jews illustrate the very point Paul is making in Romans 9:24?
*Father, thank You for Your sovereign grace and will. You are good and righteous and holy. Help me today as I strive to be all that You have required of me. Amen.