a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

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.”

6. Not however, etc. Paul had been carried away by the ardour of his wish, as it were, into an excess of feeling, (in ecstasin,) but now, returning to discharge his office as a teacher, he adds what may be viewed as somewhat qualifying what he had said, as though he would restrain immoderate grief. And inasmuch as by deploring the ruin of his own nation, this inconsistency seems to follow, that the covenant made by God with the seed of Abraham had failed, (for the favor of God could not have been wanting to the Israelites without the covenant being abolished,) he reasonably anticipates this inconsistency, and shows, that notwithstanding the great blindness of the Jews, the favor of God continued still to that people, so that the truth of the covenant remained firm.

Some read, “But it is not possible,” etc., as though it were in Greek οἷον τε 290290     Were this the case, the verb which follows, as Wolfius says and proves by an example, must have been in the infinitive mood. Piscator says the same. But Pareus and Beza take this to be the meaning; and so does Macknight, “Now it is not possible that the promise of God hath fallen.” — Ed. but as I find this reading in no copy, I adopt the common reading, Not however that it had failed, etc., and according to this sense, “That I deplore the destruction of my nation is not because I think the promise, given formerly by God to Abraham, is now void or abolished.”

For not all, etc. The statement is, — that the promise was so given to Abraham and to his seed, that the inheritance did not belong to every seed without distinction; it hence follows that the defection of some does not prove that the covenant does not remain firm and valid.

But that it may be more evident on what condition the Lord adopted the posterity of Abraham as a peculiar people to himself, two things are to be here considered. The first is, That the promise of salvation given to Abraham belongs to all who can trace their natural descent to him; for it is offered to all without exception, and for this reason they are rightly called the heirs of the covenant made with Abraham; and in this respect they are his successors, or, as Scripture calls them, the children of the promise. For since it was the Lord’s will that his covenant should be sealed, no less in Ishmael and Esau, than in Isaac and Jacob, it appears that they were not wholly alienated from him; except, it may be, you make no account of the circumcision, which was conferred on them by God’s command; but it cannot be so regarded without dishonor to God. But this belonged to them, according to what the Apostle had said before, “whose are the covenants,” though they were unbelieving; and in Acts 3:25, they are called by Peter, the children of the covenants, because they were the descendants of the Prophets. The second point to be considered is, That the children of the promise are strictly those in whom its power and effect are found. On this account Paul denies here that all the children of Abraham were the children of God, though a covenant had been made with them by the Lord, for few continued in the faith of the covenant; and yet God himself testifies, in the sixth chapter of Ezekiel, that they were all regarded by him as children. In short, when a whole people are called the heritage and the peculiar people of God, what is meant is, that they have been chosen by the Lord, the promise of salvation having been offered them and confirmed by the symbol of circumcision; but as many by their ingratitude reject this adoption, and thus enjoy in no degree its benefits, there arises among them another difference with regard to the fulfilment of the promise. That it might not then appear strange to any one, that this fulfilment of the promise was not evident in many of the Jews, Paul denies that they were included in the true election of God.

Some may prefer such a statement as this, — “The general election of the people of Israel is no hinderance, that God should not from them choose by his hidden counsel those whom he pleases.” It is indeed an illustrious example of gratuitous mercy, when God deigns to make a covenant of life with a nation: but his hidden favor appears more evident in that second election, which is confined to a part only.

But when he says, that all who are of Israel are not Israelites, and that all who are of the seed of Abraham are not children, it is a kind of change in the meaning of words, (παρονομασία); for in the first clause he includes the whole race, in the second he refers only to true sons, who were not become degenerated.

VIEWNAME is study