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God’s Election of Israel


I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

6 It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. 9For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” 10Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. 11Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13As it is written,

“I have loved Jacob,

but I have hated Esau.”

14 What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For 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 it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

God’s Wrath and Mercy

19 You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; 23and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As 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 where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they shall be called children of the living God.”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,

we would have fared like Sodom

and been made like Gomorrah.”

Israel’s Unbelief

30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

4. Who are Israelites, etc. Here the reason is now more plainly given, why the destruction of that people caused him so much anguish, that he was prepared to redeem them by his own death, namely because they were Israelites; for the relative pronoun is put here instead of a causative adverb. In like manner this anxiety took hold on Moses, when he desired that he should be blotted out of the book of life, rather than that the holy and chosen race of Abraham should be reduced to nothing. (Exodus 32:32.) Then in addition to his kind feeling, he mentions also other reasons, and those of a higher kind, which made him to favor the Jews, even because the Lord had, as it were, by a kind of privilege, so raised them, that they were separated from the common order of men: and these titles of dignity were testimonies of love; for we are not wont to speak thus favorably, but of those whom we love. And though by their ingratitude they rendered themselves unworthy to be esteemed on account of these gifts of God, yet Paul continued justly to respect them, that he might teach us that the ungodly cannot so contaminate the good endowments of God, but that they always deserve to be praised and admired: at the same time, those who abuse them acquire thereby nothing but a greater obloquy. But as we are not to act in such a manner as to contemn, through a detestation of the ungodly, the gifts of God in them; so, on the other hand, we must use prudence, lest by our kind esteem and regard for them we make them proud, and especially lest our praises bear the appearance of flattery. But let us imitate Paul, who conceded to the Jews their privileges in such a manner, that he afterwards declared that they were all of no worth without Christ. But it was not in vain that he mentioned this as one of their praises, — that they were Israelites; for Jacob prayed for this as a great favor, that they should be called by his name. (Genesis 48:16.)

Whose are the adoption, etc. The whole drift of Paul’s discourse is to this purpose, — that though the Jews by their defection had produced an ungodly divorce between God and themselves, yet the light of God’s favor was not wholly extinguished, according to what he had also said in Romans 3:3. They had indeed become unbelievers and had broken his covenant; but still their perfidy had not rendered void the faithfulness of God; for he had not only reserved for himself some remnant seed from the whole multitude, but had as yet continued, according to their hereditary right, the mime of a Church among them.

But though they had already stripped themselves of these ornaments, so that it availed them nothing to be called the children of Abraham, yet as there was a danger, lest through their fault the majesty of the gospel should be depreciated among the Gentiles, Paul does not regard what they deserved, but covers their baseness and disgraceful conduct by throwing vails over them, until the Gentiles were fully persuaded, that the gospel had flowed to them from the celestial fountain, from the sanctuary of God, from an elect nation. For the Lord, passing by other nations, had selected them as a people peculiar to himself, and had adopted them as his children, as he often testifies by Moses and the prophets; and not content simply to give them the name of children, he calls them sometimes his first-begotten, and sometimes his beloved. So the Lord says in Exodus 4:22, —

“My first-begotten son is Israel; let my son go,
that he may serve me.”

In Jeremiah 31:9, it is said,

“I am become a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-begotten:”

and again, “Is not my son Ephraim precious to me? Is he not a delightful child? Hence troubled for him are my bowels, and I will yet pity him.” By these words he means, not only to set forth his kindness towards the people of Israel, but rather to exhibit the efficacy of adoption, through which the promise of the celestial inheritance is conveyed.

Glory means the excellency into which the Lord had raised up that people above all other nations, and that in many and various ways, and especially by dwelling in the midst of them; for besides many other tokens of his presence, he exhibited a singular proof of it in the ark, where he gave responses, and also heard his people, that he might show forth his power in helping them: and for this reason it was called “the glory of God.” (1 Samuel 4:22.) 287287     Vitriaga thinks that “the glory” was the pillar of fire and the cloud in the wilderness: but Beza, Grotius, and Hammond agree with Calvin, that the ark is meant. See Psalm 78:61. It seems to refer to those manifestations made in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, by peculiar brightness or splendour. See Exodus 40:34; and I Kings 8:11. This splendour or glory signified God’s presence, a privilege peculiar to the Israelites. — Ed.

As he has distinguished here between covenants 288288     Why he mentions “covenants,” αἱ διαθὢκαι, in the plural number, has been variously accounted for, — “there were various things included — the land of Canaan, prosperity, and the priesthood, — there were three laws — the moral, ceremonial, and judicial, — there were several repetitions of the covenant made to the patriarchs;” but if we read Galatians 3:17, we shall see the true reason, for the Apostle there makes a distinct difference between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenant; but both these belonged to the Jews. See also Ephesians 2:12. — Ed. and promises, we may observe this difference, — that a covenant is that which is expressed in distinct and accustomed words, and contains a mutual stipulation, as that which was made with Abraham; but promises are what we meet with everywhere in Scripture; for when God had once made a covenant with his ancient people, he continued to offer, often by new promises, his favor to them. It hence follows, that promises are to be traced up to the covenant as to their true source; in the same manner as the special helps of God, by which he testifies his love towards the faithful, may be said to flow from the true fountain of election. And as the law was nothing more than a renewal of the covenant, and more fully sanctioned the remembrance of it, legislation, or the giving of the law, seems to be here peculiarly applied to the things which the law decreed: for it was no common honor conferred on the Jewish people, that they had God as their lawgiver. For if some gloried in their Solons and Lycurguses, how much more reason was there to glory in the Lord? of this you have an account in Deuteronomy 4:32. By worship he understands that part of the law in which the legitimate manner of worshipping God is prescribed, such as rites and ceremonies. These ought to have been deemed lawful on account of God’s appointment; without which, whatever men devise is nothing but a profanation of religion.

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